Clinical Review

Foot and Ankle Injuries in Soccer

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Another common tarsal bone that sustains stress fractures is the navicular. It is not as common as calcaneal stress fractures in military recruits but can occur in the same type of population, as well as explosive athletics such as sprinters and soccer players. It commonly presents with an indistinct vague achy pain with activity that improves with rest, and pain at the dorsum of the midfoot or along the medial longitudinal arch with activity. It can easily go undiagnosed for quite some time given the difficulty in visualizing the navicular with plain radiographs. Clinically, it is difficult to make the diagnosis, and therefore advanced imaging is necessary when the injury is suspected. Both MRI and CT scans can be used to understand the extent of the injury (Figures 9A-9C). In non-displaced stress fractures, conservative non-operative treatment is the appropriate treatment modality with a brief period of immobilization and non–weight-bearing;82 however, operative treatment is also considered in elite athletes. In either case, return to play is discouraged until there is evidence of radiographic healing. When a displacement is noted, or there is a delay in diagnosis, then operative treatment is recommended.

Axial and coronal computed tomography scans showing a navicular stress fracture with cortical disruption


Ankle injuries are very common in soccer and can result in decreased performance or significant loss of playing time. Treatment of acute injury generally follows a conservative route, with surgical intervention reserved for severe ruptures or osteochondral fracture of the ankle joint. Chronic ankle pathology resulting in mechanical or functional instability generally requires surgery to repair ligamentous damage and restore normal ankle kinematics. It is critical for the soccer player to receive appropriate rehabilitation prior to returning to play in order to reduce the risk for reinjury and further chronic instability. Prevention and early intervention of ankle injuries is key in preventing the long-term sequelae of ankle injuries, such as arthritis, in former soccer players.


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