Objective: To ascertain the epidemiology of ankle injuries in elite youth football.
Design: Retrospective analysis of prospectively collected injury data from English Football Association (FA) academies.
Setting: Forty-one FA football academies, between 1998 and 2006.
Participants: For the complete seasons studied, a total of 14 776 players was registered from U9 to the U16 age category, a mean of 2463 players per year. All ankle injuries of sufficient severity to miss 48 h or more of training were studied, 2563 injuries in total.
Main Outcome Measure: 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 two 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 observed 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 3 months or more and in 18 (0.7%) cases the player failed to return to training. In total, 52 290 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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