Clinical Review

Foot and Ankle Injuries in Soccer

Author and Disclosure Information



Further studies are needed to both investigate long-term outcomes and determine the superiority of the arthroscopic juvenile cartilage procedure compared with microfracture and other cartilage resurfacing procedures. When surgically treating OCLs, one must also restore normal ankle joint biomechanics for the lesion to heal. For instance, in the presence of ankle instability, ligament reconstruction must be performed. Also, one should also consider addressing any hindfoot malalignment with an osteotomy (calcaneus, supramalleolar). In a recent retrospective study, van Eekeren and colleagues60 showed that approximately 76% of patients were able to return to sports at long-term follow-up after arthroscopic débridement and bone marrow stimulation of talar OCLs. However, the activity level decreased at long-term follow-up and never attained the pre-injury level.60



Anterior ankle impingement is caused by anterior osteophytes on both the distal tibia and talar neck. It is thought to be related to repetitive microtrauma to the anteromedial aspect of the ankle from recurrent ball impact.61 It is very common amongst soccer players with some studies suggesting that 60% of soccer players have this syndrome. Ankle impingement is characterized by anterior pain with ankle dorsiflexion, decreased dorsiflexion, and swelling. It is primarily diagnosed with lateral ankle X-rays, which will show the osteophytes. An oblique anteromedial X-ray may increase detection of osteophytes (Figure 5). The early stages of anterior impingement can be treated successfully with injections and heel lifts. Treatment of lesions that fail to respond to conservative management involves arthroscopic or open excision of osteophytes. Most patients with no preexisting osteoarthritis treated arthroscopically will experience pain relief and return to full activity, though recurrent osteophyte formation has been noted at long-term follow-up.62

Lateral ankle radiograph demonstrating anterior osteophytes

Anterior ankle impingement is most often caused by acute ankle sprains with an inversion type of mechanism.62 The subsequent reactive inflammation can cause fibrosis leading to distal fascicle enlargement of the AITFL. Impingement in the anterolateral gutter of this enlarged fascicle can also cause both chronic reactive synovitis and chondromalacia of the lateral talar dome.63 MRI can identify abnormal areas of pathology; however, 50% of cases are diagnosed based on clinical examination alone.63 Patients generally present with a history of anterolateral ankle pain and swelling with an occasional popping or snapping sensation.

Soccer players commonly develop anterior bony impingement due to repetitive loading of the anterior ankle from striking the ball. This repetition can lead to osteophyte formation of the anterior distal tibia and talar neck. After the osteophytes form, decreased dorsiflexion can occur due to a mechanical stop and inflammation of the interposed capsule.

The patient will exhibit tenderness to palpation along the anterolateral aspect of the ankle, with pain elicited at extreme passive dorsiflexion.62 Initially, an injection with local anesthetic and corticosteroid can serve both a diagnostic and therapeutic purpose; however, patients who fail conservative treatment can be treated with arthroscopy and resection of the involved scar tissue and osteophytes. The best results are seen in those patients with no concurrent intra-articular lesions or ankle osteoarthritis (Figure 5).62 When treated non-operatively, a player may return to play when pain resolves; however, if treated surgically with arthroscopic debridement/resection, a player must wait until his surgical scars have healed prior to attempting return to play.



Next Article: