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Four Tips to Help Soccer Players Avoid Ankle Sprains

Posted on May 26, 2018 by Joe Fleming

Ronaldo-soccerAnkle sprains are the most common injury among soccer players, accounting for 20 percent of all injuries.

Ankle sprains affect soccer players of all levels, from beginners to professionals like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

No matter what your skill level, when it comes to preventing sprains during games, there are lots of things you can do to keep your ankles strong and healthy so that you can spend as much time on the field as possible.

Read on to learn more about how soccer players of all ages and abilities can avoid ankle sprains.

Identify the Common Causes of Ankle Sprains

In order to prevent ankle sprains, it’s important to first know how they most often occur in soccer players.

Listed below are some of the most common reasons that soccer players end up with ankle sprains:

  • Contact injuries — one player slides into another and the impact causes the player’s ankle to roll

  • Tripping over equipment that wasn’t put away properly

  • Stepping into holes or tripping over bumps on uneven, poorly maintained fields

  • Wearing loose-fitting cleats that leave room for the ankle to twist inside

Preventing Ankle Sprains

Some of these causes of ankle sprains are unavoidable. But, soccer players (and coaches of younger players) can still be proactive about strengthening the muscles that surround the ankle joint. By doing this, players will be more resilient to contact injuries, falls, and other common causes of ankle sprains.

Listed below are four different ways that soccer players can strengthen their lower body and reduce their risk of dealing with sprains.

1. Perform Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises are, of course, one of the best things soccer players can do to prevent ankle sprains. Below are some of the best exercises to include into their routine on a regular basis:

  • Calf raises

  • Shin raises (similar to calf raises, but the toes are lifted off the ground instead of the heels)

  • Toe walks

  • Front-to-back and lateral jumps

  • Single leg squats

  • Squat jumps

  • Multi-directional lunges

2. Improve Balance

In addition to strengthening the muscles around the ankle joint, it’s also important for soccer players to improve their balance. This will help them maintain control and stability while on the field.

One of the easiest ways to work on balance is to simply spend time each day standing on one foot. This can be as simple as lifting one leg while brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. Athletes can also spend dedicated time practicing balancing on one foot and adding in extra challenges, such as standing on a pillow or hopping up and down.

These exercises also strengthen the ankles and can help correct any imbalances that could make one ankle more susceptible to injury than the other.

3. Improve Ankle Mobility

It’s also important to make sure the ankles are mobile (meaning it’s easy to move the joint through a full range of motion). Mobility exercises help prevent loosen up the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the ankle to prevent injuries.

Some of the best mobility exercises for soccer players to add to their routine include:

  • Active calf stretches against the wall (bend and straighten the leg to keep the ankle joint and Achilles tendon working)

  • Ankle circles with a resistance band

  • Alphabet exercise with a resistance band (wrap the band around the toes and write each letter of the alphabet with the foot)

  • Multidirectional kicks (loop one end of the band around a table leg and the other around the ankle, then kick the foot out to the front, back, and sides)

4. Consider Ankle Taping

Finally, soccer players can also consider taping their ankle before a game or practice to avoid sprains. Some sports medicine professionals are on the fence about prophylactic taping, but others are totally in favor. The general consensus, though, is that taping is best for soccer players who have a history of ankle sprains.

Those who have never suffered from a sprain aren’t likely to derive much benefit from it. Taping when there’s no need can also weaken the ankle and make it more susceptible to injuries at times when it is not taped.

Soccer players who want to tape their ankle prior to a game should be sure to invest in high-quality athletic tape and have it applied by a qualified athletic trainer or sports medicine professional.

Final Thoughts

Ankle sprains may be a common injury among soccer players, but they’re certainly not inevitable. Soccer players of all ages and skill levels can benefit from keeping these tips in mind as they prepare for upcoming games.

Coaches should also take care to teach proper technique and strengthening exercises to younger or inexperienced players. This will allow them to establish good habits early on in their athletic careers.

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