I have twisted my ankle. Will I ever play again? Why are ankle injuries so common in football?
Ankle injuries are one of the more common injuries in sports like football. Studies from the Champions League show that over an eleven-year period ankle injuries made up 13% of all in injures on the field of play. The majority of those ankle injuries were due to sprains and strains with the vast majority of these being lateral (side) ligament ankle sprains. This is a pretty common injury in any walk of life and presents with pain, a swollen ankle, bruising and discolouration. The cause is the ankle turning or twisting inwards so the ligaments on the outside of the ankle are damaged.
Most players are injured in games and not in training. The increased intensity and competitiveness of the match atmosphere means players more commonly ‘put their bodies on the line’ or ill overstretch for the ball. The more competitive the match, the greater the chance of injury.
The foot is a complex structure that is well designed to for its purpose but the pressure placed on ankles in football with its sudden twists and turns and awkward landings. Add to that competitive tackling which increases the chances of injury. In the eleven-year Champions League study, 58% of ankle sprains were caused by contact between players. The majority of these tackles were legal and didn’t result in a foul. They were just normal tackles with no intent. Any sports that involve a change of direction will have a share of this type of injury. As the ankle is in constant use these injuries are painful and frustrating.
Ankle injuries are treated immediately by RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), see our blog on RICE for Sprains and Strains. See our RICE blog. They should always be checked by a medical professional if you are struggling to stand and bear weight on the ankle, there is an obvious deformity, or the bone feel tender when it is touched. Any of these signs may mean a fracture.
How to avoid ankle injuries
If you have had a previous sprained ankle you are more likely to do it again in the future. A ligament is like a spring and once you have over stretched it, even with good rehabilitation, it will always remain slightly overstretched. Don’t start playing on an injured ankle too soon. A physiotherapist will be able to give good exercises to strengthen the ankle to help it heal and prepare for future use. Many of these are balance exercises that may seem minor, but they will really help prevent future injury.
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You may be interested in our Digital Sports First Aid manual. The manual is free for anyone who books on one of our first aid courses. This can be downloaded multiple times to your hand held tablet or phone and includes links to a large video library of videos demonstrating first aid techniques like CPR and injury management. The manual also contains links to a library of blogs dealing with specific illnesses and injuries.