Sprinting, rapid change in directions, lateral agility, precision footwork, and even the low profile cleats, soccer is a sport that requires an incredible about of ankle strength and stability. It’s no wonder the injury rate in soccer is so high. In fact, studies have shown that more injuries have been recorded in soccer than in volleyball, basketball, rugby, boxing, and swimming, and to no surprise, the majority of soccer injuries at at the lower extremity. In order to prevent injury and boost performance, it’s crucial that you focus on improving your ankle strength and stability.
Before we dive too deep into improving performance and recovering from injury, let's quickly take a look at the anatomy of the ankle.
The outside (lateral) component of your ankle is comprised of both dynamic (muscles) and static (ligaments) stabilizers, which are designed to keep your ankle from rolling.
Now these names and long and technical and it’s not really all the important to know what there names are, but what is important is knowing that these structures all work synergistically to keep your ankle from rolling. That means that if you’re not targeting both systems (dynamic and static stabilizers) in your programming, you are setting yourself up for increased risk of injury.
In order to best set yourself up to prevent ankle injuries, you need to focus on not just ankle strengthening exercises, but proprioception as well. Proprioception simply means your joints awareness of where it’s at in space and this predominately comes from mechanoreceptors found in the three ligaments we mentioned earlier. Below are three drills that are fantastic at improving ankle proprioception.
Half Kneeling Balance Drill: Must be able to maintain balance for 60 seconds. Progress by adding weight to one side, being on foam surface, or by closing your eyes.
Clock Balance Drill: Complete three full rotations, both clockwise and counterclockwise.
Single Leg Med Ball Toss: To improve lateral stability. Complete 30 seconds of tosses with focus on high velocity.
Now as we mentioned earlier, your static stabilizers work synergistically with with your dynamic stabilizers and are equally important to focus . This is where ankle strengthening comes into the picture. Below are three great drills to strengthen your ankles.
Banded Side Step Up: Complete 3-4 rounds of 30 seconds in each direction. The key is to keep the band at the bell of your feet.
Single Leg Jump Rope: Should be able to perform for 60 seconds and without a significant difference in difficulty side-to-side.
Single Leg Volleys
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jake, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.