Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Soccer Injuries Common When One Foot Stronger Than Other

soccer (Photo credit: aldinegirl87)
Pro soccer players are much more likely to suffer ankle sprains when one foot is stronger than the other, a new Greek study shows. Ankle sprains occur when a ligament in the joint is over stretched or torn, often from a sudden twist or awkward landing. They are among the most common injuries in soccer and can lead to pain and stability problems lasting months or even years.
Though there have been many studies into why athletes suffer sprains, few have focused on soccer players, said George Vagenas, from the University of Athens, and lead researcher who published his findings in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
The researchers did pre-season tests of ankle strength and stability in over 100 players from 4 professional soccer teams in Greece, then followed the players over the next 10 months to see who would get hurt on the field.
Seventeen players suffered one or more contact sprains during the season. Those with considerable strength differences between their left and right ankles were nine times as likely to suffer sprains as those whose ankles were about the same strength.
When a player cuts or lands from a jump, it's important to have symmetrical activation of the two sets of ankle muscles to help the joints absorb the impact and prevent damage, Vagenas told Reuters. "All soccer players, professional or not, must be evaluated during the pre-season period by sports specialists for verification of potential functional symmetry of the ankle joint," he said.
Sports medicine experts said the report has an important message for amateur athletes as well. "This study does suggest that if soccer players want to lower their risk of suffering ankle sprains, then they should strengthen their ankle musculature evenly, so that they have a good balance between both legs," said Erik Wikstrom, an expert in ankle sprain at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "Proper balance between the lower extremities is very important."
Prior studies have shown that both lace-up ankle braces and balance training on a wobble board can help stave off ankle injuries.
"I tell people to go ahead and balance on one leg, then the other for two or three minutes.," said Timothy McGuine, sports medicine specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who added that doing this exercise two to three times a week is a good start.
The Greek researchers also found that heavier players were more prone to sprains, which makes sense given the extra force their ankle absorb when they land or cut. Apart from keeping a healthy weight, McGuine told Reuters that it's important to learn to land properly too. "Don't land stiff legged. We want a soft foot strike."

If you are an athlete and are experiencing foot pain, call our Newington, Kensington, or Middletown office to make an appointment.
Craig M. Kaufman, DPM
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Sports Medicine Podiatrist in CT
Podiatrist in Newington
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