Ankle injuries are the second most prevalent injury in soccer, only behind head/facial injuries. With so much emphasis on the foot and ankle in soccer, it’s no wonder the ankle takes a beating.

Most ankle sprains in soccer occur during running, cutting or tackling. A high percentage of ankle injuries occur from direct side to side contact, as opposed to a front or back contact. Regardless of the mechanism of injury, the result is usually the ankle turning excessively inward, stretching the ankle ligaments. How much the ligaments stretch or tear will determine the extent of the ankle injury.

Types of Soccer Ankle Sprains

Grade 1 Ankle Sprain

Involves the ligament(s) being stretched and is usually accompanied by some swelling and a little soreness. This is the mildest type of ankle injury.

Grade 2 Ankle Sprain

Involves the ligament(s) partially tearing. With a grade 2 ankle injury you will typically have swelling and discoloration and you may also experience weight bearing pain.

Grade 3 Ankle Sprain

The most severe type of sprain and involves a complete tear of the ligament(s). Swelling, discoloration, weight bearing pain, and some noticeable ankle instability are associated with this type of injury.

Regardless of the extent of the ankle injury, it is always recommended to seek out medical attention from an athletic trainer, physical therapist or physician.

Ankle Injury Recovery

Please consult your physician or athletic trainer before attempting any rehabilitation exercises. Your injury may be too severe to undertake these exercises and it is always best to err on the side of caution.

RICE is the common method used by athletic trainers, coaches, and parents everywhere to quickly treat mild injuries. Follow the RICE protocol below to treat mild injuries if you’ve decided to not immediately see a medical professional.

Rest – Decrease your activity so your ankle has time to start healing.

Ice – You can apply ice to your injured ankle in the following ways:

  • Ice in a plastic bag (Apply to the ankle for 20-25 minutes)
  • Ice made in a paper cup (Apply to the ankle for 8-10 minutes and rip off the top of the paper cup as the ice melts)
  • Immersion in ice water (5-10 minutes)

You should ice your ankle many times a day with at least 30 minutes between each ice application.

Compression – Compression helps to reduce swelling, so tightly wrap an elastic bandage around the ankle and loosen the wrap if it becomes uncomfortable.

Elevation – Elevate the ankle above the level of your heart to reduce blood flow to the area and help alleviate increased swelling.

Returning to Competition

Ankle ligaments are non-elastic which means once they have been stretched as the result of an injury the ankle will become more unstable and susceptible to yet another injury.  Before returning to competition it’s a good idea to seek out an ankle brace that can help prevent another ankle injury. Before you start your soccer ankle brace search, it’s extremely important to understand the different ankle brace designs and how they may affect ankle strength, range of motion and performance.

Some soccer players wear the lace-up style ankle supports primarily because they are low profile and upon initial impression they appear to provide good ankle support. Lace-ups became popular as a replacement for the ankle tape job, which loses 70% of its effectiveness during the first 20 minutes of activity. A lace-up is basically a corset that restricts all ankle range of motion which is not ideal when you are trying to keep the ankle strong and maximize performance.  Also, by restricting normal up and down ankle motion, the ankle works against the lace-up causing it to lose support rapidly

Rigid plastic ankle braces are another style of ankle brace.  These types of ankle braces have a hinge and allow free up and down ankle motion to maximize performance and keep the muscles strong.  They will provide much more ankle protection than the lace-up support because the brace moves with the ankle, not against it so the straps stay securely in place maintaining long last support.  The downside is because these braces are rigid they can be uncomfortable and bulky which soccer players typically do not like.

A third style of ankle brace that offers the performance aspect of the hinged brace with the softness and low profile of the lace-up is the Ultra Zoom.  The brace shell is made of an advanced flexible material called Performathane that uses body heat to custom-fit to the ankle.  The hinged-cuff design allows full ankle range of motion and the cuff helps to restrict excessive ankle turning and twisting which causes both low and high ankle sprains.

Regardless of which type of ankle injury prevention methods you use as a soccer player, safely competing at a high level should always be one of your top priorities. If you’re a player with a history of soccer ankle injuries and want to speak with one of our certified athletic trainers about your specific situation, give us a call or send us a message and we’d be happy to help.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

Ankle sprains are one of the most commons injuries seen in athletics. Although preventative exercises can reduce the risk of an ankle sprain, some sprains are inevitable. Below is a list of actions athletes can take after an initial ankle sprain to get back to the competition more quickly.

Seek Medical Attention

After spraining your ankle it is imperative to seek medical attention. Injuries other than mild to moderate sprains that can occur when rolling your ankle include severe ligament tears, bone fractures, high (syndesmotic) ankle sprains, and more. Failure to properly identify all possible damage to your ankle may lengthen healing time – meaning more time away from your sport. Always make sure to check in with a certified athletic trainer or doctor after you sustain an ankle injury.

Move Early

Gentle range of motion exercises right after injury help to improve functional outcomes and may decrease your return-to-play time. Start by moving your ankle up and down, side to side, and in large, slow circles. I often tell my athletes to draw the ABC’s with their big toe very slowly, making the letters as big as possible. Completing these exercises with your foot elevated will help to decrease swelling as well. If bearing weight on the newly injured ankle is tolerable, you can try shifting your weight from one foot to the other while standing.

Protect and Support

When it comes to recovering from an acute ankle injury, physicians will sometimes prescribe a walking boot that restricts all ankle movement. Once a patient is ready to transition from a walking boot and resume movement, but isn’t ready to go straight to a preventative ankle brace, we recommend they wear the Ultra CTS brace.

This one of a kind, hinged ankle brace supports and protects a newly sprained ankle while encouraging athletes to move through their normal range of motion. The Ultra CTS includes a semi-rigid foot plate to decrease weight bearing pain and gives an athlete more stability on a questionable ankle, decreasing fear of movement, guarding, and painful gait patterns. As the injury heals, the Ultra CTS upper cuff can be detached to transform the brace into a low-profile activity brace.

Control Pain

If your pain prevents you from moving the joint early, use ice. Intermittent use of an ice bag or ice water bucket is a drug-free and cheap way of reducing pain and is something you can utilize before seeing a physician. Make sure to check the skin occasionally for signs of ice burn or allergy.

A compression bandage and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs will also help reduce pain by decreasing the amount of swelling in the joint. The Ultra CTS and its Performathane® Custom-Fit technology does a great job of providing gentle compression and forming to your ankle but wearing a compressive bandage underneath for the first few days is even more helpful in reducing swelling.


If you’re able, find an athletic trainer or physical therapist that will give you therapeutic exercises and guidance while you perform them. Having a more structured rehab regimen will improve your recovery time. At the very least, get exercises from your physician and perform them on your own as prescribed. After spraining a ligament in the ankle, the joint needs to rely on the surrounding muscles more, making therapy exercises a must.

Help Prevent Ankle Sprains

Sports are unpredictable. Even with strong muscles, perfect biomechanics, and great conditioning, ankle sprains are still possible and in some situations highly likely to occur. If you have not yet sprained your ankle there are ways to reduce your risk of doing so:

  • Wear a preventative ankle brace that provides full range of motion. Unlike lace-up ankle braces, hinged ankle braces do not restrict natural range of motion and help prevent extreme ranges that lead to injury. You CAN reduce risk of ankle injury and not adversely affect performance!
  • Do preventative ankle exercises regularly. Reach out to a medical professional to find the best exercises for prevention. They should include not only strengthening exercises, but also plyometric and proprioceptive exercises.
  • Perform sport specific conditioning before and during the season. Doing sport-specific training will ensure your body is ready for competition and able to react to the stresses you will be placing on your ankle.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries