Ankle Injury Prevention For Soccer Players
Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in all sports, but in particular soccer players.(1) The purpose of this article is to reduce the risk and prevent future ankle injuries by introducing important ankle/foot mobility and strengthening concepts/exercises.
Exercise #1: Ankle Inversion Walk
The most frequent ankle sprains in soccer athletes are inversion sprains. (2) During an inversion sprain the ankle turns inwards causing the ligaments on the outside of your ankle to stretch out too far. The primary ligament which gets injured is the anterior talofibular ligament. Ankle inversion walks are designed to build up tissue resilience in order for tissue capacity to be greater than the load in hopes of preventing future injuries. (3)
Exercise #2: Ankle Dorsiflexion (DF) Stretch.
Ankle DF is a key range of motion (ROM) required for proper squatting, planting, cutting and changing direction with running. Inadequate DF ROM can lead to compensations and possible ankle, knee and hip injuries. (4)
Exercise #3: Ankle Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs).
This is an essential ankle mobility exercise. Our ankles are designed to move in multiple planes and thus your ankles need to be able to do so. Also, CARs work on improving proprioception (unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation of different body parts) which is a crucial part of preventing injuries. (2) Ankle CARs are most effective if performed first thing in the morning or before soccer participation as a warm up.
Exercise #4: Foot Intrinsic Strengthening
Foot intrinsic muscles play a vital role in proper ankle joint complex functioning. Foot intrinsic muscle strengthening is often forgotten or avoided. Furthermore, foot intrinsic muscle weakness has a direct correlation with chronic ankle instability. (5)
Disclaimer: there is no such thing as the BEST exercise for preventing ankle injuries. Every athlete is different, and an individual assessment by a skilled physical therapist is required for tailoring a specific program.
1. Fousekis K, Tsepis E, Vagenas G. Intrinsic Risk Factors of Noncontact Ankle Sprains in Soccer: A Prospective Study on 100 Professional Players. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012;40:1842-1850.
2. Mohammadi F. Comparison of 3 preventive methods to reduce the recurrence of ankle inversion sprains in male soccer players. Am J Sports Med. 2007;35:922-926.
3. Cook JL, Docking SI. "Rehabilitation will increase the 'capacity' of your …insert musculoskeletal tissue here…." Defining 'tissue capacity': a core concept for clinicians. British journal of sports medicine. 2015;49:1484-1485.
4. Ota S, Ueda M, Aimoto K, Suzuki Y, Sigward SM. Acute influence of restricted ankle dorsiflexion angle on knee joint mechanics during gait. The Knee. 2014;21:669.
5. Feger MA, Snell S, Handsfield GG, et al. Diminished Foot and Ankle Muscle Volumes in Young Adults With Chronic Ankle Instability. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016;4:232596711665371.