Anna Kournikova, Tennis Player

From the WebMD Archives

NAME: Anna Kournikova

SPORT: Tennis, Women's Tennis Association (WTA)

INJURY: Damaged ankle ligament


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Born in Russia and now living in Miami, Anna Kournikova, who will be 19 in June, turned pro in October 1995. Although she has won five WTA Tour doubles titles -- including one Grand Slam title -- she has never won a WTA Singles tournament.

In 1997, she became the second woman in the Open Era (which started in 1968) to reach the Wimbledon semifinals in her career debut in the tournament. In just her second year on the Tour, she defeated three Top 10 players in 1997 (No. 5 Iva Majoli, No. 6 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, and No. 10 Anke Huber).

Kournikova won her first WTA Tour professional title in 1998 at the Princess Cup in Tokyo, winning the doubles crown with Monica Seles. She also became the ninth-youngest player in the Open Era to defeat a reigning world No. 1 before her 17th birthday, upsetting Martina Hingis in the quarterfinals at the 1998 German Open.

Kournikova won her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 Australian Open, winning the doubles title with first-time partner Hingis by upsetting the first and second seeds.


Trailing 4-5 in the final set of her nearly 2 1/2-hour match at the German Open, Kournikova took a backhand swing and fell to the ground, grabbing her ankle. She sat in a corner of the court and was treated for several minutes. She got up and resumed play, but opponent Gala Leon Garcia closed out the match on the next point. During the match, Kournikova twice fell onto the court with leg injuries. She also was treated earlier for arm stiffness after she warded off Gala Leon Garcia's first match point at 30-40.

After the match, she was diagnosed as suffering from a damaged left ankle ligament.



The ankle bone (talus) and the ends of the two lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) form the ankle joint, which is stabilized and supported by three groups of ligaments. Muscles and tendons move the foot and ankle.

According to the Rothman Institute, the ankle is the most common area for injury in the body. It has been estimated that 15% of all sports injuries involve the ligaments, bones, and tendons of the ankle.

During sports-related ankle injuries, the foot is likely to turn inward (ankle inversion) from a fall, tackle, or jump. This stretches or tears ligaments, resulting in an ankle sprain. The outside (lateral side) of the ankle is injured 90% of the time when the ankle rolls over; this is considered an inversion sprain.


Often, the ankle is tender, swollen, and discolored. Walking may be difficult, depending on the severity of the sprain.

The physician examines the ankle to identify the type of ankle sprain and determine the appropriate method of treatment. Ankle sprains are classified by "types" and range from mild to moderate to severe. A type I ankle sprain, the least severe, occurs when ligament fibers have been stretched or slightly torn.

Type II sprains occur when some of these fibers or ligaments are completely torn. In type III sprains, the entire ligament is torn, and there is significant instability of the ankle joint.

Classifying ankle sprains helps the physician diagnose the specific structures involved in the injury. This also helps determine appropriate treatment plans for each type of ankle sprain. X-rays of the ankle and foot are often used to rule out bone fractures, dislocations, or joint instability. Sometimes, the physician may recommend computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) if he or she wants more detailed views of the bone and soft tissue around the ankle joint.


The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends the following to help reduce ankle injury risk:

  • Warm up before any sports activity, including practice.
  • Participate in a conditioning program to build muscle strength.
  • Do stretching exercises daily.
  • Never run when experiencing pain in the foot or ankle.
  • Wear protective equipment appropriate for that sport.
  • Replace athletic shoes as soon as the tread or heel wears out.
  • Wear properly fitting athletic clothes and equipment.



Most ankle sprains heal in three to eight weeks. In more severe cases, ligaments may require more healing time to promote ankle stability. Repeated ankle sprains may cause chronic instability, interfering with walking or sports activities.


Kournikova missed the Italian Open tournament in Rome that started on May 15th. She hopes to recover enough to play in the French Open beginning Monday.

WebMD Feature


Medical information provided by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, and the Rothman Institute.

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