Ankle sprains are the most common injury in soccer, accounting for nearly 20% of all soccer injuries. Understanding ankle sprains, including prevention and rehabilitation strategies, can be incredibly helpful in minimizing the risk of being sidelined by an ankle sprain.
A sprain occurs when a ligament, which connects bone to bone, is stretched or stressed beyond its capacity, resulting in the tearing of fibers. Sprains occur at the lateral (outside) ankle, medial (inside) ankle, or between the tibia and fibula, known as a high ankle sprain.
A lateral ankle sprain is the most common type of ankle sprain and often involves the Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATFL). This results from excessive inversion and plantarflexion (pointing toes down and turning inward). For example, this can happen if your ankle “rolls” when landing on another player’s foot or by stepping into a divot while running. The pain, tenderness, or bruising is primarily on the outside of the ankle.
If the injury occurs to the medial side of the ankle, the sprain likely affects the Deltoid Ligament and occurs when the ankle is forced into excessive eversion (rotating foot outward). For example, when two soccer players approach a ball, each connecting and driving the ball toward each other, the player with more force drives the ball through, while the other player’s foot gives way. If the ankle is forced beyond its eversion range of motion, then the medial ankle ligaments can become injured.
A High Ankle sprain involves the ligaments that hold the tibia and fibula together, and often occurs from extreme dorsiflexion (toes upward) and/or rotation, such as a plant-and-twist action, which forces the lower tibia and fibula bones to pull apart slightly, stressing the structures that hold them together. Pain may be located deep in the ankle or lower leg. A high ankle sprain requires a longer healing time compared to the other types of sprains.
Sprains are classified by the severity of tissue damage. Click here to see characteristics of sprains (Grades I, II, III).