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Prevention program reduces ankle sprains in the athletic population
March 30, 2018

Experiencing one ankle sprain increases the risk for additional sprains in the future

Ankle sprains are the most common injuries that occur in the athletic population, and the risk for these injuries is particularly high in individuals that participate in sports with lots of jumping, changing direction and/or pivoting. After an athlete experiences an ankle sprain, several structures in the ankle become weakened, which increases the risk for another ankle sprain in the future. For this reason, some individuals who sprain their ankle once go on to deal with repeated ankle sprains and long-term problems that can seriously interfere with their participation in sports. One way to address this is by reducing the risk for ankle sprains in the first place with certain preventive strategies, such as proprioceptive training. Proprioception allows one to know where their body is in space, and it allows us to take in sensory input from the outside world and integrate it into a particular movement. A prime example of proprioceptive training for the ankle is balance exercise, which can enhance the body’s ability to adapt to a changing environment and protect it from injury. To develop a better idea of how effective this type of training could be, researchers conducted a review on all available literature on the topic.

Four databases searched for relevant studies

Investigators performed a search of four major medical databases for studies on the topic. In particular, they were looking for powerful studied called randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated the protective effect of proprioceptive training for preventing ankle sprains in active individuals. This search led to a total of seven RCTs being included into the review, and these studies contained data on 3,726 participants. Once the studies were collected, investigators reviewed their findings and compared them to one another to determine if the programs actually reduced the risk for ankle sprains.

Proprioceptive training found to be effective for reducing patients’ risk for ankle sprains

The results of this review generally showed that the proprioceptive training was in fact effective for reducing the risk for ankle sprains in active individuals. In particular, they found that individuals who completed the training had a 35% reduction in the risk of ankle sprain compared to those who did not. In addition, it was determined that if 17 patients underwent the training, at least one ankle sprain would be prevented. Another analysis found that participants with a history of ankle sprains who completed the training had a 36% reduction in risk for future ankle sprains. These findings show that a proprioceptive training program may be a beneficial method for reducing ankle sprains in athletes, regardless of their history of ankle sprains. Additional research is now needed to further investigate these programs to determine which exercises are best and how long they should last, but patients should still view this as a smart strategy to reduce their risk for an ankle sprain. Those who are interested in keeping their ankles protected should also consider seeing a physical therapist to receive an appropriate treatment program.

– As reported in the November ’17 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training