Football Champions

The FA Cup is one of the greatest cup competitions in the world, where the underdog can gain fans from across the country and take on the big teams for matches which are never a foregone conclusion. This year’s final saw Arsenal take on Hull is what many would have expected to have been a foregone conclusion, but this was the FA Cup.

The match saw an electric start with Hull taking the lead with two quick goals followed by an equaliser, with three goals being notched up in the first twenty minutes. Arsenal continued to be on the back foot, trying to redeem themselves from their early mistakes and equalised in the second half and taking the match into Extra Time. In the end it was the Gunners who remained triumphant, being able to push themselves for longer on the pitch and bringing talent from the bench to help them over the line in one of the most exciting FA Cup Finals in recent years.

Jack Wilshere has endured a number of high profile ankle injuries in recent years, often being referred to as having ‘glass ankles’ as a result, from stress fractures to nasty sprains.

Stress Fracture

It was in May 2011 that he suffered the first of his ankle injuries in an England match against Switzerland and starting as pain being felt in the right ankle which failed to subside. Following any onset of pain it is essential to stop what you are doing and rest to minimise the risk of further damage being caused. Should the symptoms fail to show signs of improvement following a few days of rest then a professional diagnosis is advised as it could be worse than first anticipated.

In Wilshere’s case it was, with a stress fracture being identified following an Emirates Cup game which required surgery. Following immediate recovery from surgery a period of strengthening exercises are required to rebuild strength in the joint so that it is able to withstand the pressures of professional football.

Following a fracture your ankle may be placed in a walker boot to help protect it from image damage whilst keeping you mobile. These types of devices are used for ankle and foot injuries and have been worn by the likes of Wayne Rooney and David Beckham following their respective metatarsal injuries. After the use of a walker boot you may be required to wear a rigid ankle support in order to reduce the risk of the ankle rolling whilst still allowing you to walk, thereby offering you additional stability.

Ankle injuries can be very frustrating, with this particular incident causing a number of reoccurring problems for Wilshere, leading to him missing the entire 2011/12 season and missing 17 months of football in all.

Ligament Damage

In November 2013 Wilshere suffered another setback after rolling his ankle, one of the most common ankle injuries a person may sustain, let alone a Premier League footballer. The NHS see over 1 million sprained ankles every year and their severity can range from swelling and bruising and few days off your feet to several months out of action and surgery to remedy the issue.

A sprained ankle is a largely self-limiting condition in that following rest with ice and compression to manage any inflammation you should be back on your feet within a few days. Compression can be achieved via an ankle support which can be worn when active on your return from injury.

For more serious sprains there could be damage to the ligaments within the joint, something that Wilshere may have experienced having spent 6 weeks out of action. Ligaments are the tough bands of tissue which connect the bones within a joint and are responsible for its overall stabilisation. Any damage here can affect your ability to walk, run and jump and in terms of treatment can require anything from intensive physio to surgery followed by intensive physio.

A ligament based ankle support may also be used as part of your overall recovery, where the straps work as external ligaments to help offer the patient additional stability when active. Sports braces are deigned to be worn when active, manufactured from compressive yet breathable material to maintain pressure on the affected area whilst keeping you cool.

Ankle support options

There are a variety of options on the market depending on how much you want to pay and what condition you are attempting to manage.

Where you are attempting to manage inflammation and bruising then you need a compression based ankle support, something which will apply pressure to the affected region without it moving and giving you the maximum set of benefits.

Where there is instability in the joint then a brace with external strapping is recommended, which act as external ligaments and offer you the additional support required during your recovery.

For a non-sports based ankle support, whereby the patient requires stability then a rigid ankle support may be the preferred option. This type of support helps to minimise the risk of the joint rolling due to the solid plastic inserts paced either side the ankle whilst still allowing the patient to walk freely.

If you are unsure as the severity of any ankle injuries sustained or the best course of treatment for a specific condition then you should seek a professional diagnosis.

Wilshere’s most recent injury was as a result of a broken foot and not related to his previous history of sustaining ankle injuries but resulting in 6 weeks out of action. He was able to return however to the squad for the FA Cup Final and play a part in his team taking home silverware for the first time in nine years, a stepping stone on his return to 100% prior to heading off to Brazil.

Dave Regis discusses the use of orthotics for the management of ankle injuries, reviewing injury rehabilitation through exercise and the use of bracing and supports. He writes articles focussing on the use of an ankle support and other methods of rehabilitation.

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