Footballer’s Ankle – What causes it, Symptoms and How to Treat it
Footballer’s Ankle, also know as Ankle impingement, is caused by bone spurs or soft tissues in the front of the ankle that can cause pain and block movement.
Ankle joint movement involves the tibia (shin bone) gliding over the talus which is a dome-shaped bone. The ankle joint is stabilised by ligaments, and is encased in a soft capsule containing lubricating fluid.
Repetitive kicking, bending or twisting the ankle can cause the ligaments to catch and become stretched, making them swollen, inflamed and thickened.
This type of repetitive motion eventually leads to bony spurs forming at the front of the ankle, which can block ankle movement.
Types of Footballer’s Ankle
There are two types of footballer’s ankle:
- Bony Impingement: during repetitive kicking the tibia jars against the talus and reacts by trying to heal itself – producing a bone spur. This bony lump can cause block movement and become painful as the bone spurs knock against each other or can trap soft tissues when the ankle is pulled upwards (dorsiflexion).
- Soft tissue Impingement: soft tissues such as ligaments or joint capsule can become pinched between the talus (ankle bone) and the tibia (shin bone). It can occur as a result of repetitive kicking or flexing, or after an ankle sprain – when a torn ligament heals with scar tissue formation which makes it thicker and more likely to catch during ankle movement.
What Causes Footballer’s Ankle?
Anterior ankle impingement is most often brought about by activities that involve repetitive kicking or extreme upward or downward flexing of the foot. Football is not the only sport affected by ankle impingement. Dancers are particularly prone to this condition and it also affects athletes in other sports such as volleyball, rugby and sprinting. Anyone who has had an ankle sprain can suffer from anterior ankle impingement.
What Are The Symptoms of Footballer’s Ankle?
- Pain: in the front of the ankle, particularly when the ankle pulled upwards (dorsiflexion), or step forward into a lunge. It can become painful on daily movements such as walking up or downstairs.
- Swelling: particularly after exercise.
- Clicking: a clicking, grinding or catching sensation as the ankle is flexed upward or downward.
How Can Footballer’s Ankle Be Treated?
Diagnosing ankle impingement requires a history and physical examination with imaging to confirm the diagnosis. X-rays and CT scans are used to show bone spurs; MRI or ultrasound provide images of soft tissue impingement and swelling.
- Physiotherapy: exercises and manipulation to improve mobility of the ankle joint.
- Injections: Steroids to reduce inflammation and plasma (PRP) to aid healing.
- Surgery: some cases may require keyhole (arthroscopic) surgery.
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