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Ankle Bone or Joint Injury

Footballer’s Ankle

Minute Read

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Posted 10 months ago

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Last updated: 03/12/2022

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by James McCormack

What is Footballer’s Ankle

Footballer’s Ankle is characterized by pain and swelling at the front of the ankle joint due to bony spurs or mechanical impingement of soft tissues.

The ankle joint comprises 3 bones, the medial and lateral malleoli (shin bones), and they sit on top of the Talus bone. It is a very compact joint, and if there is excess pressure on one aspect of the ankle from kicking a ball, tackles or changes of direction, bony spurs can develop. These bony spurs can cause pain at the front of the ankle joint and lead to an Anterior Ankle Impingement, also known as Footballer’s Ankle.

Footballer’s Ankle: Symptoms

  • Pain and swelling at the front of the ankle
  • Sore when lifting the foot upwards
  • Pain walking uphill
  • Clicking or catching sensation at the front of the ankle
  • Pain when attempting the knee-to-wall test
  • Ankle instability

Causes of Footballer’s Ankle

Footballer’s ankle is caused by a bony growth or spur that develops on any of the 3 bones that make up the ankle joint. A bony spur on the front of the ankle can pinch on soft tissue such as ligaments and tendons in the front of the ankle leading to pain when dorsiflexing the foot or kicking a ball.

Other causes of Footballer’s ankle include impingement of soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and the joint capsule due to repetitive actions such as lifting the foot upwards (dorsiflexion). As a result, this is a prevalent condition for footballers as they repetitively kick a ball and for dancers and gymnasts alike.

Footballer’s Ankle: Diagnosis

If you think you have Footballer’s ankle, we recommend you seek a consultation from a medical professional such as a Sports Medicine Doctor or a Physical Therapist. Following a clinical interview and physical examination, they may be able to provide a diagnosis using an anterior ankle impingement test. To confirm a diagnosis, your clinician may seek a referral for an x-ray or CT scan to identify any bony growths on the front of the ankle. These only show bony structures and an MRI is recommended for those requiring a more in-depth analysis of the soft tissues around the front of the ankle alongside the bone structure.

Footballer’s Ankle Treatment

Icing can provide temporary pain relief when applied to the front of the ankle after an activity. Massage of the soft tissues of the calf muscle and Anterior Tibialis muscle can provide pain relief. This can be carried out using a foam roller or a massage gun. Stretches to the surrounding muscles can help to offload the front of the ankle.  An Ankle Brace such as a lace-up ankle brace can provide extra stability to the ankle joint and reduce pain levels.

A Physical therapist may perform massage, distractions, and mobilizations and provide a structured rehabilitation plan involving graded strengthening exercises and balance exercises. Rigid taping applied by a Physical Therapist can help to offload the front of the joint. Kt Tape has minimal to no benefit for Footballer’s Ankle.

If symptoms fail to settle with Physical Therapy, an ultrasound-guided steroid injection may be required to provide pain relief and facilitate further rehabilitation.

If conservative management is unsuccessful, surgery may be required for Footballer’s ankle. This often involves a keyhole arthroscopic surgery to remove any bony spurs or scar tissue that has accumulated in the front of the ankle.

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice and we recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack to achieve a diagnosis. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.

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How long does Footballer's Ankle Take to heal?

It takes 4-6 weeks for Footballer's ankle to heal under the care of a Physical Therapist. If there is no change in symptoms at that stage, a corticosteroid injection may be necessary.

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