Something a young sportsperson never wants to hear, especially if they are keen soccer or footy, is they suffer from a condition known as footballer's ankle. Literally this condition puts thousands of young hopefuls off the professional circuit every year and prevents them from ever playing the game seriously, again.
Footballer's Ankle is a pinching or impingement of the ligaments or tendons of the ankle between the bones, particularly the talus and tibia. This results in pain, inflammation and swelling. The condition was first described in 1950 and occurs in people who repeatedly kick a ball. Excessive kicking and up-ward bending and stretching of the foot causes strain on the capsular ligaments causes damage to the bones in front of the ankle. Repetitive ankle injuries cause not only thickened ligaments but also the bone in the ankle to hit the base of the shin bone causing a lump of bone or trapped ligament to appear. This restricts normal ankle movement and makes kicking a stationary ball, very painful. Some people respond well to surgical treatment but the vast majority of sufferers end up with chronic pain, especially if they attempt to persevere with activity.
Perhaps one of the few ways to help prevent this disorder is to learn, from a very early age, how best to kick the ball.
People who excel at sport tend to have the advantage their bodies are naturally made for that particular sport. Middle distance runners for example present a different leg foot relationship to long distance runners. In the former, the runner uses the ball of the foot, whereas in the latter, the heel strikes the ground first. Understanding this can help improve selection of young athletes and enrich training techniques sufficiently well enough to prolong their active careers.
In New Zealand researchers reported a small study on part-time soccer players to consider the relationship between anatomy of the player and type and frequency of injuries they sustained during a playing season. Players from Lower Hutt Football Club AFC (Premier Division in New Zealand) were examined and a diary of injuries recorded over the season. The data was compared to previously published data from a similar study conducted on professional Premier League players in England . Due to the limited size of the study, insufficient evidence was found to support the connection between anatomical make up of the individual player with the type of injury suffered. However the injuries noted in the New Zealand study were consistent with the type of play. High incidence of muscle strains and tendon pulls were recorded but ligament injury and joint sprains did not feature. A possible reason for this pattern of injuries may be related to the level of fitness of the player. Played at a slower pace, intricate ball skills are less obvious in New Zealand soccer than South American or Australian styles for that matter. Maintaining possession or dispossessing an opposing player takes longer therefore increasing the risk of contact and traumatic injury. Defensive and mid-field players were reported more at risk because they were involved in general play for longer periods of time. A lack of preparation before the game may also have contributed to their injuries. The playing surfaces had no significant effect on the type and frequency of injuries reported nor was new boots or studs a factor. All injured players were wearing boots worn for at least three months. Injury was more prone to occur during the first thirty minutes of the game with the first hard tackle being the primary cause of damage.