Ankle sprain, the most common injury for soccer players, is an injury to the ligaments of the ankle. Ligaments connect bones and provide stability for the body’s joints. The ligaments on the outside of the ankle are injured when the foot rolls inward. Ankle sprains can occur when a player is running, cutting, kicking, tackling or being tackled, or landing from a jump.
Another common ankle injury among soccer players is "Footballer’s ankle," caused when bone spurs form on the front part of the player’s ankle on both the shin bone and ankle bone. Doctors believe the repetitive motion of kicking the ball causes the bone spurs to develop. If footballer’s ankle is suspected, the player should see a foot and ankle specialist for an evaluation. Confirming the injury usually requires medical imaging and it may require surgery to correct and relieve the symptoms.
U.S. Soccer’s Recognize to Recover program provides guidance on treating and recovering from ankle injury.
Symptoms of an ankle sprain include:
- Pain, especially while walking
Initial treatment for an ankle sprain is RICE therapy:
REST – keep off the injured ankle
ICE – apply ice to the area for twenty minutes every hour; place a towel between the skin and ice, to prevent burns
COMPRESSION – use a wrap to stabilize the injury; start at the toes and wrap up the leg past the ankle
ELEVATION – raise the leg to help with swelling and pain; when elevating an injured ankle, remember "toes above the nose"
Other treatments may include:
- Using over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen.
- Using a functional brace to support the ankle for 5-7 days maximum.
- Following an initial 4-5 days of RICE therapy, players may start physical therapy based on their physician’s recommendation. Physical therapy can include an active range of motion exercises, weight bearing training and retraining the muscles and body.
- All athletes should see a medical professional for further evaluation following an ankle sprain to determine the true extent of the injury and establish a proper physical therapy timeline.