Ankle Sprains in Soccer

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Have you wondered what an ankle sprain is? How do you treat it?

soccer player doing kick with ball on football stadium  field  isolated on black background

 In this post we’ll talk about what an ankle sprain is and how we would treat it for a soccer player, whether it being with exercises or other modalities.

What is an ankle sprain and how can it occur?

Soccer players are at direct risk for ankle sprains due to the kicking, cutting, and running required to perform. All these motions point the joints at risk of twisting and injuring. An ankle sprain is an injury where the ligaments that support the ankle get overly stretched or torn. Ligaments prevent excessive movement and help stabilize joints. A sprained ankle occurs when these ligaments are forced beyond their normal range of motion and therefore are not able to properly stabilize the ankle. There are 3 grades of ankle sprains. Grade 1 are light sprains that usually allow return to sport in 2-3 weeks. Grade 2 sprains involve greater injury to the ligament and can take up to 4-6 weeks to allow full return to sport. Grade 3 sprains are more severe and often involve full tearing of the ligament and possible bone fracture . Some examples of mechanism of injury may be:

  • Overuse
  • Tripping on a surface
  • Jumping
  • Twisting
  • Landing
  • Tackling
  • Shooting/kicking
  • Sudden stops and cuts


Here is a list of symptoms you may have after spraining your ankle in a game or practice:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tender to touch
  • Pain – especially when weight bearing
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Instability of the ankle
  • Popping sound or sensation at the time of injury 


How do you treat an ankle sprain?

Treatment for sprained ankles depends on the severity of the injury on the field. Self-care measures or even over-the-counter medications can help, but it might be a good idea to go see your physiotherapist. Other ways to treat a sprained ankle may be:

  • Exercises to increase range of motion, strength, flexibility, and stability
  • Balance and stability training on and off the field 
  • Icing
  • Elevation
  • Crutches if needed

How do you prevent ankle sprains?

There are several ways in which you can prevent spraining your ankle in future training. Look at the following list:

  • Warm-up before games or practices 
  • Be careful on uneven surfaces - watch for dips and holes in the field
  • Use ankle brace or tape if required
  • Wear shoes that fit well - correct footwear for outdoor fields like grass or turf
  • Maintain good muscle strength and flexibility
  • Practice stability training, including balance exercises
  • Always remember to properly rehab your injuries with sufficient rest time

Sport specific exercises

Here are some great exercises for ankle rehab to get you moving out on the field again!

Calf Raises: If you're new to calf raises it's a good idea to stand beside a wall or countertop for additional support. Start by slowly shifting your weight forward and going up on your toes and holding for a couple seconds then slowly lowering back down. Remember to come up straight on your toes rather than the outsides of your feet.


Ankle Eversion: Start with a band tied around your foot closer to the toes, and have the other end tied to something stable. We want tension in the band when you shift your foot outwards. Start from a neutral position then slowly point the toes outwards, but remember to keep the knee pointing forward. Then come back to neutral and repeat. 


Ankle Inversion: Start with a band tied around your foot closer to the toes, and have the other end tied to something stable. We want there to be tension when we point the toes inwards. Start by having your foot in neutral position then slowly point the toes inwards and and remember to keep your knee pointing forward. Then come back to neutral and repeat. . 


BOSU Balance Catching a Ball: Start by standing on a BOSU ball in a mini squat. Get someone to throw you a small object like a ball and catch it. Throw it back to the other person. Remember to maintain your balance and mini squat. Then repeat.


Standing Balance Test: The picture on the left shows an easier version of the exercise. Once that is too easy, it can be done on a foam pad. Start by standing on the ground and pretend you're going to kick a soccer ball. This will help with ankle stability. Then you can move onto working on a foam pad. 



If you need further information on on ankle sprains or have any other concerns, please send us an email at or you can go to our website here [CLICK ME]


"How long will an ankle sprain take to heal?"

This all depends on the severity of the injury, but most sprains require 2-6 weeks to heal. Our goals are to control inflammation, regain strength and range of motion, and restore muscle control and endurance levels before returning to the game or everyday life.

"When should I see my physiotherapist?"

If the injured area is unusually painful, you may want to see your physiotherapist. We want to rule our fractures and to reduce the risk for reoccurring sprains. Constant aching, night pain, and inability to bear weight could be signs of a fracture. But you should see a physician before self diagnosing and panicking. 

"When can I return to soccer?"

Once the ankle is back to full strength and movement and the playing soccer is painless. Depending on the grade of sprain as mentioned above, recovery time can vary for the injury. That's why it's important to see your physiotherapist and complete rehab to ensure safe transition to your activity and minimizing the risk of re-injury.
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