Professional soccer players tend to suffer from more ankle sprains when one foot is stronger than the other, researchers from the University of Athens reported in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Players can sprain their ankle when a joint ligament is torn or over-stretched, usually because of a difficult landing or a violent twist.

An ankle sprain is also known as a twisted ankle, floppy ankle, ankle injury, or ankle ligament injury.

Sports medicine specialists say that ankle sprains are one of the most common soccer injuries – they can be very painful and cause problems for months, and even years.

George Vagenas, PhD, lead researcher, explained that several studies have looked into why athletes sprain their ankles. However, not many have concentrated on soccer players.

Vagenas and team tested the strength and stability of the ankles of 100 soccer players from four professional football (soccer) teams in Greece before their season started. They were monitored for ten months for injuries while playing.

Over the ten-month season, 17 players suffered at least one non-contact sprain. They found that those who had one ankle significantly stronger than the other had a nine-times greater chance of suffering ankle sprains, compared to those with similar ankle strengths.

Ankle en
Lateral view of the human ankle – the parts in color (ligaments) may be over-stretched or torn when a sprain occurs

When a player lands hard from a jump, his two sets of ankle muscles should respond with similar levels of strength so that the impact is absorbed evenly – otherwise there is a serious risk of injury, the authors explained.

Vagenas believes that soccer players should have their ankle strengths assessed before their playing season. He added that this applies to both amateur and professional players.

In an Abstract in the same journal, the authors wrote:

“Functional strength asymmetries of the ankle flexors and increased body mass index and body weight raise the propensity for ankle sprains in professional soccer players.

Age and asymmetries in ankle laxity are potential factors worth revisiting, as there was an indication for younger players and players with ankle instability to be at higher risk for ankle injury. Proper preseason evaluation may improve prevention strategies for this type of injury in soccer.”

Sprained ankle 30min
When you sprain your ankle, blood vessels leak fluid into the tissue around the joint. White blood cells migrate to the area – these are responsible for inflammation, the area will swell. There will also be more blood flow to the area, which may become red and warm. Nerves become more sensitive when an injury is suffered – there may be throbbing pain, even when no pressure is placed on the ankle or foot.

Written by Christian Nordqvist