Ankle Injuries in Soccer | What to Do When It Happens to You
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, and, unfortunately, it’s also an all-too-common cause of sports injury. Given that most of the world calls the game “football,” it’s no surprise that your ankles are especially vulnerable on the soccer field.
When ankle injuries occur in soccer, they can put a serious damper on your game plan, but not to worry. Here are some simple ways to prevent these injuries, as well as tips on how to make injuries less debilitating when they do happen. Read on to learn more.
The Most Common Types
Some types of ankle problems are more common than others. These include:
- Sprained ankles. One of the most common ankle injuries in soccer, these happen when your ligaments and tissues are twisted out of place. This injury most frequently occurs due to heavy impact with the ball, or when another player kicks you in the ankle.
- AMI. Short for anteromedial impingement and sometimes called “footballer’s ankle,” AMI is a chronic form of ankle inflammation and pain that tends to crop up frequently in players after finishing a soccer match (hence its nickname). This condition comes less from trauma and more commonly from repeated strain placed on the ankle.
- OCL. OCLs are some of the most insidious ankle injuries in soccer. They affect the cartilage of the foot, which is known to be slow to heal on its own, and thus will often require intense physical therapy and sometimes even surgery to correct.
Preventing Harm to the Ankle
The ankle is a vulnerable and relatively fragile part of the foot, and is at high risk of injury in a game that requires so much kicking. Fortunately, these injuries can often be prevented through some simple measures.
First, always make sure you’re stretching extensively and engaging in proper, functional warm-ups before you start a match. This advice might sound obvious, but a lot of ankle injuries in soccer are more likely to happen when an athlete stretches improperly or hasn’t stretched at all. Take a few minutes to make sure you’re doing the right foot stretches and doing them correctly.
Next, avoid shoes with longer cleats. This tip is more important than it might seem because the longer the cleats in your shoes are, the more shoe-surface traction your movement creates. This puts extra pressure on your ankles, and thus increases the risk of injury. Make sure your shoes aren’t generating undue friction and by extension, giving your feet unneeded stressors.
Finally, make sure the grounds you’re playing on are watered. Yes, really! Many soccer ankle injuries become exacerbated by turf that’s too hard, which is more likely during warmer seasons. Ask the groundskeeper of your local field if they would be able to keep the soil a little more moist than usual. If you play in your own backyard, remember to take a hose to your lawn every now and again so the soil doesn’t dry out.
Treating an Ankle Injury
Unfortunately, whether it’s out of bad preparation or sometimes sheer dumb luck, you might still sustain ankle injuries in the course of a soccer game. Obviously, the severity of the sprain will make a difference when it comes to how you should treat the injury, but in general, there are a few steps you can take to expedite your recovery and get back on the field.
Many ankle injuries can be treated with the tried-and-true combination of ice, anti-inflammatories, and plenty of rest. Don’t put too much weight on the bad foot for a while and return to your athletic routine at a slow and gradual pace. It’s a straightforward, classic recovery method that will thwart many ankle injuries that happen in soccer.
It’s also a great idea to invest in a quality ankle brace. This can speed your healing along and put you in a position where a sprain will be less of an obstruction to your daily life. Braces and wraps can also work well for minimizing the risk of an ankle injury before they occur. You might be surprised at how many kinds are available: whether you’ll be best served by a brace specifically made for your Achilles tendon or one with the flexibility of elastic, there’s an option out there that’s right for your circumstances.
Finally, there are tons of exercises and stretches you can do not just to heal but also to strengthen your ankle to prevent injuries in soccer going forward. A resistance band is a great accessory to invest in to help you recover and improve your ankle’s mobility. Something as simple as balancing on a pillow with your affected foot for 10 seconds at a time can work wonders for restoring balance and reconditioning the foot for strength. Your doctor will also be able to give you plenty of tips and tricks for getting your ankle back up to speed and better than it was before.