Soccer has one of the highest rates of ankle injuries in sports, but a recent meta-analysis has calculated that prevention programs are able to reduce these rates by up to 40% among men and women. The analysis was performed to assess a variety of studies done on ankle injury prevention programs, to determine general trends in effectiveness, and to see how similar the overall findings were.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 227,700 people sought treatment for soccer-related injuries—including 36,300 ankle injuries—in 2015 alone. These injuries can range from mild to traumatic, with the worst capable of sidelining players for weeks or months at a time.
The analysis looked at ten randomized, controlled trials, with a combined participant total of 4,121. The methods employed to prevent ankle injuries included neuromuscular, balance, strengthening, and stretching exercises. None of the studies covered made use of external supports, such as bracing or taping.
Although the researchers found that the ankle injury prevention programs helped reduce risk by about 40%, they also found a high level of heterogeneity among the studies. Heterogeneity is a problem that can arise during a meta-analysis and can make comparisons more difficult. Basically, a meta-analysis works best when all the studies it looks at are performed similarly. When a meta-analysis has a high level of heterogeneity, it means that the studies being analyzed are very diverse in method. The researchers admit that the studies covered different age ranges and professional levels, which could also influence the results.
None of this suggests that the prevention programs don’t work, but it does have some implications for anyone looking to reduce ankle injuries while playing soccer. While you might not necessarily see a 40% reduction, the analysis does suggest that there is strong evidence for supporting the use of prevention programs in making the beautiful game easier on the ankles.
Grimm, N., et. al., “Ankle Injury Prevention Programs for Soccer Athletes Are Protective,” Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, 2016; http://dx.doi.org/10.2106/JBJS.15.00933.