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Prevention programmes can reduce ankle injuries in football players by 40%

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Targeted programmes to prevent ankle injury are effective at reducing the injury rate in football players, according to a new study.

The analysis published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS) shows that prevention programmes can lower the risk of ankle injuries by as much as 40%.

Reporting on the study, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons noted that soccer (football)-related injuries to the lower extremities can be traumatic, often sidelining players from the game for weeks or months.

“This is the first study of its kind on ankle injuries in soccer athletes to strongly support injury prevention programmes to reduce ankle injuries,” commented lead study author and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Nathan Grimm. “In our analysis, we were able to review the results from multiple studies, and make conclusions we could not make from any one study by itself.”

The researchers reviewed data from ten randomised controlled studies on ankle injury prevention programmes, involving 4,121 female and male football players. The studies included neuromuscular, proprioceptive (balance), strengthening, and stretching exercises to prevent ankle injuries. They did not include bracing, taping or other external supports.

Prevention programmes were associated with a significant reduction in the risk of ankle injury, the analysis showed.

“This new data can be used by clinicians to provide evidence-based recommendations to their patients,” said Dr Grimm. “It can also be used by coaches who wish to implement programmes that will decrease the risk of injuries in athletes, and by the athletes who are trying to make the decision about participating in an injury prevention programme.”

The researchers noted that further research is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of specific exercises and the optimal timing and age at intervention for the prevention of ankle injuries in football players.