The ankle joint is made up of 3 bones, the medial and lateral malleoli and the talus bone. If there is pain at the front of the ankle joint caused by impingement, this is referred to as Footballer’s ankle. It can cause pain and swelling in the area.
Footballer’s ankle is caused by a bony growth or spur that develops on any of the 3 bones with 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 as a result of repetitive actions such as lifting the foot upwards (dorsiflexion). As a result, this is a very common condition for footballers as they repetitively kick a ball and for dancers and gymnasts alike.
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 knee to wall test
- Ankle instability
If you think that you have a footballer’s ankle we recommend that you seek a consultation from a medical progressional such as a Sports Medicine Doctor or a Physical Therapist. Following a clinical interview and clinical 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 for those requiring an more in-depth analysis of the soft tissues around the front of the ankle alongside the bone structure, an MRI is recommended.
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.
Physical Therapy for Footballer’s Ankle:
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.
Injections – If symptoms fail to settle with Physical Therapy, an ultrasound-guided injection may be required to provide pain relief and facilitate further rehabilitation.
Footballer’s Ankle: Surgery
When 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.
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.
Footballer’s Ankle Conclusion
Footballer’s ankle is associated with pain in the front of the ankle as a result of repetitive use. As a result, it is common but not exclusive to footballers, gymnasts, and ballet dancers. It can be treated conservatively with Physical Therapy but surgical intervention may be required in some instances.
Online 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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