With football season in now started, there seems to be no better time to talk about anterior ankle impingement–AKA, footballer’s ankle. Footballer’s ankle has been the bane of many athletes, including dancers, runners, and soccer players. Athletes whose sport involves regular kicking motions are particularly vulnerable.
What is it?
This is a condition that may develop over time from repeated strain to the front of the ankle joint caused by flexing the foot–a motion that leads to those pesky calcific deposits. Or it may develop as a result of bone damage caused by the stress of that same motion (and also facilitating bone spur formation). Chronically weak ankles, especially in non-athletes, may also cause footballer’s ankle.
In any case, scar tissue, inflammation, and/or bone spurs develop in the front of the ankle joint, which limits the joint’s range of motion and often causes pain. A physical exam, x-rays, or in rare cases an MRI may be used to diagnose the condition.
Conservative treatments for footballer’s ankle include physical therapy designed to break down scar tissue in the joint, rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections. In more severe cases when conservative treatments are no longer effective, surgery is used to remove the scar tissue and/or bone spurs blocking the joint. Fortunately, this surgery does not have an extensive recovery time, and patients are often able to return to their normal activities fairly quickly.
Happily, the vast majority of patients with footballer’s ankle recover successfully and without any damage to their athletic ability–even patients who undergo surgery. The condition may reoccur, although your physical therapist will likely be able to recommend stretches, exercises, and/or medical devices to help lower your risk.
Suspect you may be developing a case of footballer’s ankle? Request an appointment with our sports medicine experts.