Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in soccer players, due to the high demands the sport has on ankles. In Soccer, ankle sprains can occur from a variety of actions. These actions often include getting a tackle wrong, kicking & shooting, running & rolling an ankle, or even landing wrong from a jump. Ankle injuries are quite often the cause of a few weeks off, if not an early end to the season. Unfortunately, ankle sprains are an injury that most players will go through at some point in their career!
The mechanism of ankle sprains occurs in either one of two ways:
Inversion sprain where there is the foot and ankle moves inwards with toes down
Eversion sprain where the foot and ankle moves outwards with toes upwards
How ankle sprains feel
Right after an ankle sprain you will often feel pain on the affected side of your ankle and difficulty putting weight through the foot. Within the next 24 hours, you are likely to experience some of the following symptoms: tenderness to touch, swelling, bruising, instability (especially when moving), inability to put weight & walk on the affected side, and in severe cases, ongoing pain throughout the night.
How Severe are Ankle Sprains?
Ankle sprains can range in how severe they are, from being painful to bear weight solely on the day, to leaving you players of sport for months.
By assessing your ankle motion, strength, and ability to bear weight, therapists can grade the severity of ankle sprains into one of the following 3 categories;
- Grade 1: there is slight tearing of one or more ankle ligaments. There is often swelling, stiffness, and pain lasting a few days. Return to activities will often occur quickly, within a few days at worst
- Grade 2: there is an incomplete tear or tears of the ankle ligaments. Pain, difficulty walking, increased swelling, bruising and stiffness are common symptoms
- Grade 3: there is a complete tear of the ankle ligaments affected in the injury. The ankle presents with intense swelling & pain, and the ankle is unstable due to the lack of ligament support, making walking incredibly difficult & painful.
How to manage ankle pain throughout the game
Depending on the severity of the pain & how comfortable a player feels during movement, there are multiple ways to manage ankle pain & instability throughout the game.
Strapping the ankle with rigid strapping tape or wearing a supportive ankle brace is the first choice to add some support and structure to the ankle, and is an effective way to offload ankle instability and minor sprains to get you through a game.
Wearing a more supportive soccer boot can help reduce pain and increase ankle support More supportive soccer boots include the Asics Tigreor or Asics Lethal Ultimate. Due to the 10mm heel gradient there is extra shock absorption which will lessen pressure on the ankle.
To rest or play after an ankle sprain
If during the game an ankle injury occurs, whether you can continue is really gauged by the pain at the time. If it’s painful to run and kick throughout the game then the ankle is injured enough that continuing play is only going to worsen your condition.
In this case, following the PRICE protocol (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is important to start immediately upon injury. Once the ankle has settled down, giving some extra support and beginning strengthening exercises are the best form of management until that ankle is healed.
Whilst recovering from a sprained ankle is possible, it’s important to make sure the ankle is capable of playing before jumping back into sport. This involves testing it running, changing direction, kicking & tackling impact before a full return to sport occurs. Seeing a podiatrist is the perfect way to have ankle strength assessed and get a gradual return to sport to ensure you don’t dive back in too early and risk reinjury.
How Podiatry can help treat Ankle pains and sprains
Podiatrists are specialists of the lower limb, ankle and foot, and as such are capable of helping settle down an acute ankle sprain, strengthen an existing ankle injury for return to sport, or protecting a previously injured ankle to prevent sprains reoccurring.
Podiatrists help treat ankles through the following methods:
Providing Hands-on Treatment
A Podiatrist will provide hands-on treatment including modalities such as massage, foot and ankle joint mobilisation, and dry needling to reduce pain and swelling as fast as possible. Custom orthotic therapy< is a great tool to assist in improving foot posture and efficiency, to support ankles and reduce risk of future sprains.
Taping and bracing:
Podiatrists will apply strapping taping and can show clients how to perform this themself moving forwards for either the short or long term. Braces can also be issued to assist in reducing pain and providing support post injury. There has been evidence to show that bracing may reduce the likelihood of future ankle sprains.
Certain football boots will better suit certain foot types, and a Podiatrist can help in identifying which boot will suit you best to help prevent ankle injuries.
Improving Strength & Flexibility:
Due to the damage sustained by the injury, ankles are often weak & stiff when recovering. Seeing a podiatrist can help identify muscular tightness, muscular weakness and endurance deficits in the affected lower limb. An appropriate strength and conditioning program can be recommended to ensure you have a positive and successful return to sport.
Moon boot fittings:
In severe cases of pain or injury (including stage 2 or 3, or muscle strains, tears and bone injury) a moon boot may be advised for pain relief and healing. At Pod Fit Podiatry we stock a full range or short and tall moon boots (also called cam boots) which are fitted by our Podiatrists at both our Findon and Modbury clinics in Adelaide. Your Podiatrist will fit the boot and provide a full return to play plan for you. See more about moon boot fittings here.
If you’re experiencing ankle sprains or pains we would highly recommend coming in to see a Podiatrist and have a plan put into place to get you feeling and playing better!