The ankle joint is vulnerable to injury because it is so mobile. It handles a considerable amount of force and it carries your full body weight. The jumping and running involved in soccer puts the ankle through an immense amount of strain and this can lead to injuries. The ankle joint is actually comprised of two joints, including the subtalar joint and the tibiotalar joint. The bones in these joints are held together with a series of ligaments. The subtalar joint allows for eversion and inversion of the ankle. The tibiotalar joint allows for plantar flexion and dorsiflexion of the ankle.
Signs and Symptoms of an Ankle Injury
The most common ankle injuries in soccer are sprains, strains and fractures. It is difficult to know what the injury is by the symptoms alone because they are all the same: pain, bruising, swelling and trouble walking on the injured ankle. How severe the symptoms are varies greatly from person to person and this depends on the severity of the injury.
Treating Ankle Injuries
As soon as the injury occurs, the athlete must get off the field and off of the injured ankle. Continuing to put weight on a sprained, strained or fractured ankle can cause further damage. Immediately, ice the injured ankle, apply compression with a compression bandage, elevate it and rest. It is important to have a doctor or athletic trainer evaluate the ankle to help determine the severity of the injury.
In cases where there is a minor sprain or strain, continuing to rest, ice, elevate and compress the ankle is the normal course of treatment. The doctor or trainer may apply an air cast or walking boot for more stabilization and have you use crutches for a few days to avoid putting weight on the ankle. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help to treat pain and inflammation in cases of strain or sprain.
In severe cases, a ligament, tendon or muscle may be torn. If the tear is partial, the above treatments may be enough to allow for healing, but it may take several weeks before full healing occurs. When the tear is significant, surgery may be necessary to repair the damage. After surgery, you will need to go through rehabilitation to strengthen the ankle and restore range of motion.
With a fracture, the typical course of treatment is splinting or casting, avoiding weight bearing and regularly icing and elevating the injured ankle. It can take six to eight weeks for a fracture to fully heal and after this time you may need physical therapy to restore strength and range of motion.
If the fracture is severe, you may need surgery to properly set the bone. Screws and plates are used to realign the bones into their proper position. As you are recovering from surgery and the bones are healing, it is important to not put weight on the ankle until you are instructed to do so, so crutches are commonly used. Your doctor will likely have you elevate the area frequently and apply ice to reduce swelling. Prescription or over-the-counter pain medications may be prescribed to alleviate discomfort. After the case is removed and the bones have healed, physical therapy is usually necessary to regain strength and range of motion in the ankle.