Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tell me what "footballer's ankle" is? I've never heard that term before today when I got an email that my best friend in college is off the field because of it.

Athletes involved in running and jumping sports can develop a condition called footballer's ankle or medial ankle impingement. Medial refers to the side of the ankle closest to the other leg. Typical symptoms include ankle pain, a clicking sensation when moving the ankle, and loss of ankle motion. These symptoms are the result of "impingement". The term "impingement" always tells us something is getting pinched. In cases of medial ankle impingement, there are bone spurs (osteophytes) opposite one another (hence, the term "kissing osteophytes"). With certain movements of the ankle (e.g., dorsiflexion or moving the ankle toward the fact), the opposing bumps of bone butt up against each other, stopping motion. Sometimes the deltoid ligament gets caught between the two bone spurs, another example of impingement. Football players aren't the only ones who can develop this condition. Other athletes engaged in sports like basketball, soccer, distance running, and gymnastics have developed medial ankle impingement. Most of the affected individuals have a subtle (mild) cavus foot (high arch). Changes in foot position after nonsporting injuries such as ankle and foot fractures can also lead to medial ankle impingement. Treatment is usually quite successful for this problem but it may mean surgery and time in recovery. Most athletes are able to get back into action and return to full participation in their sport(s).

Arthur Manoli II, MD. Medial Impingement of the Ankle in Athletes. In Sports Health. November/December 2010. Vol. 2. No. 6. Pp. 495-502.

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