A Division I Men’s Soccer athlete suffered a rash of injuries to the lower extremity and lumbar spine. After a comprehensive screening and clinical tests, he was finally back on the field.
The most common injuries in soccer are those of the lower extremity, and the injury cascade from compensation increases the statistical risk for re-injury or secondary injury. A 21 year old soccer player on a nationally ranked Division I program was chronically injured with soft tissue injuries and joint pain. After failed attempts to resume playing for extended periods a more comprehensive screening process was recommended to identify the underlying factors that were predisposing him to injury.
Common medical evaluations revealed nothing wrong with his muscle and joint flexibility or strength, and his running mechanics appeared typical for an experienced soccer player. After his orthopedic evaluation was analyzed he was screened for gait analysis and traditional jump tests.
The athlete was tested for power and symmetry in both single leg and double leg tests with the Optojump system. The double leg tests revealed solid power tests with both the squat jump and counter movement jump but his unilateral hop tests revealed an array of problems. The testing was assisted by a Noraxon wireless surface EMG system and revealed typical gluteal recruitment issues with the unilateral hop. Conventional thinking would conclude that the left medial gluteal was weaker, but the isolated tests revealed no asymmetry with strength.
The athlete repeated the same battery of tests with the Medilogic in-shoe pressure mapping system and the findings revealed foot and ankle function that was asymmetrical in nature; this impacting muscle recruitment throughout the lower extremity and up to the lower spine. Based on the summary of all of the information, the finding strongly suggested that the closed chain ankle dorsiflexion on the right foot coupled with a series of foot restrictions on the left were the culprit. A combination of joint mobilization exercises as well as a slight padding adjustment to the athlete’s cleats was created.
The athlete continued to manage the training demands with general sports massage and a home stretching program with no reported problems. His season was completed and no further lower extremity injury occurred. Follow up testing for monitoring purposes included the Optojump testing for both foot and ankle mechanics and gross lower extremity power. While power was not increased during the season, what did improve were indicators of symmetry in both frontal and sagittal planes bilaterally. Subject reported muscle soreness was normal and evenly distributed and joint range of motion was preserved. While the off-season conditioning program was limited, the fitness level established from the late summer, a key factor in preventing the injury cascade from repeating, was maintained.