What the World Cup teaches us about foot and ankle health

Once every four years, the world becomes captivated by soccer. Even if you aren’t a mega fan, it’s likely that you’ve noticed or watched the World Cup in the last couple of months. Matches are streamed everywhere from living rooms to New York bars so we can see what teams have won and lost, and upsets dominate the sports headlines for days. As an expert on feet and ankles, I’m often drawn to the injuries that occur during these soccer games. Here are a few things that we can all learn about foot and ankles while enjoying the World Cup.

Athletics with running and movement are prone to these issues

Playing soccer can take a toll on your body, and especially on your lower limbs. There has to be a reason that the rest of the world calls it futbul, right? Common injuries that occur during the sport include Achilles ruptures, peroneal tendons, and sprained ankles. While these situations can sometimes be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, other times physical therapy and surgical intervention are required to get things back on track. That can be frustrating to both the individuals dealing with an injury and the coaches, fans, and other players depending on them to feel better.

No one is immune from injury

Whether you play soccer for a living or just like to kick the ball around in a rec league, all players are at risk for injury. Just ask Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, who damaged an ankle ligament during a match against Tunisia. Athletes of all talent ranges could find themselves in the same or a similar boat if the conditions are just so. While some injuries are the result of plain old bad luck, others can be prevented. As with many things, preparation is key. Before a game, be mindful of stretching out to reduce strain, and take breaks throughout play to avoid overextending your body. If possible, invest in supportive braces and properly fitting footwear to reduce slips, slides, and sudden twists that can be perilous for your feet and ankles.

Sometimes it can be hard to detect or determine an injury

Soccer players are notorious for making productions when injuries occur–and even when they don’t. It’s not uncommon to see players rolling around on the turf following a collision caused by the other team. This can cause an advantage if the ref thinks unsportsmanlike behavior or other roughhousing caused one team more trouble than the other. At times, it can be difficult to detect what is a real injury and what is just pretend. Healthwise, the most important matter is that the athletes themselves do not cover up or try to hide any foot or ankle injuries. Time and time again, I see individuals who have put off having an issue examined. Doing this can sometimes lead to more extensive injuries down the line as existing ones are not properly cared for.

Soccer is quite fun to watch, and it can also teach us a lot about foot and ankle health. If you play the sport, it’s important that you are mindful of your potential for foot and ankle issues. If you have any questions about existing or presidential concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out so we can have you playing at the top of your game.