Objective: To ascertain the epidemiology of ankle injuries in elite youth football.
Design: Retrospective analysis of prospectively collected injury data from English Football Association Academies.
Setting: Forty-one FA Football Academies, between 1998 and 2006.
Participants: For the complete seasons studied, a total of 14776 players were registered from U9 to the U16 age category – a mean of 2463 players per year. All ankle injuries of sufficient severity to miss 48 hours or more training were studied - 2563 injuries in total.
Main outcome measurements: The incidence and burden of ankle injuries in this population, and factors associated with injury.
Results: There was a mean incidence of one ankle injury per player per year, and a mean of 20 training days and 2 matches were missed per ankle injury. Increased injury rates were seen in older players, in competition and later in each half of match time. Peaks in injury were seen early in the season and after the winter break. In competition, more injuries were associated with a contact situation than in training. Eighty-eight injuries (3.4%) required a lay-off of three months or more and in 18 (0.7%) cases, the player failed to return to training. In total, 52290 training days and 5182 match appearances were lost through ankle injury. The majority of injuries were sprains, but more severe injuries occurred accounted for 3.9% of the total.
Conclusions: Ankle injuries are common in young football players, and are often severe, with prolonged loss of training time. This has potential far reaching implications, both on and off the field.
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