Footballer’s ankle, medically known as anterior ankle impingement, is a form of chronic ankle pain caused by bone spurs on the front aspect of the bone of the ankle. These spurs are generally developed from long term sporting activity that involves kicking as this will move the ankle to its extremes.
The spurs begin to impinge on each other and/or pinch and irritate the soft tissue between them. This will lead to pain and, in some cases, swelling which is reported to be more severe after engaging in athletics. Although this condition is caused by bone spurs, not all athletes who develop these spurs will necessarily suffer from footballer’s ankle.
A doctor may test for the condition by bending the ankle back to simulate a kicking motion or examining the area for tenderness, swelling or obvious bone spurs. An X Ray will be able to determine the presence of spurs if a doctor is unable to locate them due to swelling but the most beneficial test is an MRI as this will rule out the presence of any other injuries such as stress fractures.
The first approach to treatment of footballer’s ankle will preferably be non-surgical where possible. An individual suffering from the condition will be required to avoid any activities which may increase their symptoms. They will be advised to remain activity but to be aware of their motions so that they do not cause themselves any unnecessary symptoms. Anti-inflammatories will be prescribed and should be used as well as regular ice packs to reduce swelling in the area.
Physiotherapy is beneficial when used in conjunction with the above measures. A physiotherapist will train the patient to alter any motions which might increase their symptoms.
In some cases, surgery may be the immediate solution sought to treat the condition. This is usually to solve the problem between sporting seasons so that the athlete does not miss out. A surgery will consist of small incisions through which a surgeon will remove the bone spurs and any inflamed soft tissue or scar tissue. After surgery, the patient must completely rest their ankle to allow for healing of incisions and reduction in surgical swelling. The may also be required to attend sports physical therapy so that they are physically able to play in the next season.
Recover time varies from 3-6 months in most cases. Surgery for this condition is overwhelmingly successful with most patients having no issue in returning to their pre-surgery activities.