Several lower limb injuries, including lateral ankle sprains, anterior cruciate ligament ruptures and hamstring muscle injuries have been associated with restricted ankle dorsiflexion. This FastFact examines a paper which aimed to evaluate the acute (post-match) and chronic (throughout the season) effects of competition on ankle dorsiflexion range of motion in professional football players1.
Restricted ankle dorsiflexion ROM may increase the risk of injury by modifying lower-limb stiffness and landing forces after a vertical jump. Furthermore, it is also associated with increased knee valgus, decreased quadriceps activation and increased soleus activation during squat movements that could affect athletes’ performance. The aim of this study was to see whether ankle dorsiflexion is influenced by acute and chronic loading.
A total of forty professional football players participated in this prospective observational study. They were recruited from two different teams playing in the top Spanish football league. Ankle dorsiflexion was measured using the LegMotion system (a simple instrumented device used to measure ankle dorsiflexion) at various time points during a competitive season.
The results show a significant increase of 5.8% in ankle dorsiflexion ROM in the dominant limb immediately after a match, while the same parameter was reduced by 2.65% 48 hours post-match compared to post-match values in both lower limbs. Ankle dorsiflexion ROM showed a significant reduction from pre-season in dominant (−8.1%; −9.6%, mid- and post-season, respectively) and non-dominant (−12.5%; −13.8%, mid- and post-season, respectively) ankles. A decrease in this parameter was also found in the dominant limb when comparing post-season to mid-season (−6.3%).
This study found significant reductions in ankle dorsiflexion ROM during the competitive year and 48 hours after match play in both limbs compared to post-match values. It is possible that this progressive decrease in ankle dorsiflexion may be an indicator of increased risk of injury and could be addressed with prevention actions such as stretching exercises and eccentric strength. Whether the reduction in ankle movements is clinically significant, and whether stretching/maintaining movement does indeed reduce the risk of injury, remains unclear and requires further study. The generalisability of these findings to other player groups is also unclear.
1. Victor Moreno-Pérez, Aitor Soler, Asier Ansa, Álvaro López-Samanes, Marc Madruga-Parera, Marco Beato & Daniel Romero-Rodríguez (2019): Acute and chronic effects of competition on ankle dorsiflexion ROM in professional football players, European Journal of Sport Science, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2019.1611930