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Prevention programs significantly reduce ankle injuries in soccer

Researchers focused on strength training and stretching, rather than braces or the taping of ankles.

By
Stephen Feller
Stretching and muscle strengthening can decrease the risk of ankle injuries from soccer by about 40 percent, say researchers in a new study. Photo by Lopolo/Shutterstock
Stretching and muscle strengthening can decrease the risk of ankle injuries from soccer by about 40 percent, say researchers in a new study. Photo by Lopolo/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Prevention programs can reduce the number of injured ankles among soccer players, according to a large review of studies.

Programs that promote stretching and muscle strengthening helped to decrease ankle injuries by 40 percent among thousands of athletes, researchers at Duke University and the University of Utah report in a study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

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Injuries are relatively common among soccer players, with more than 36,300 people treated for injuries just to an ankle in 2015. The injuries can be traumatic, keeping players out off the field and significantly affecting their lives.

Stretching and strength training was shown, however, to limit these injuries, suggesting many more of them can be avoided with a minimum of effort.

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"This new data can be used by clinicians to provide evidence-based recommendations to their patients," Dr. Nathan Grimm, an orthopedic surgeon and researcher at Duke University, said in a press release. "It can also be used by coaches who wish to implement programs 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 program."

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For the study, the researchers reviewed 10 studies with 4,121 female and male soccer players, analyzing them for ankle injuries and preparation or prevention methods associated with such injuries. In searching for studies, the researchers looked only at studies focused on interventions such as neuromuscular, proprioceptive, strengthening, and stretching exercises, while excluding those including exogenous modality, such as bracing or taping of ankles.

Among athletes who participated in such preventive actions, the risk for ankle injury while playing soccer decreased by about 40 percent, the researchers report.

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"This is the first study of its kind on ankle injuries in soccer athletes to strongly support injury prevention programs to reduce ankle injuries," Grimm said. "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."

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