Proprioception Training – Is it effective in reducing ankle sprains?

ankle propAnkle sprains are common in change of direction, pivotal or jumping sports. Ankle sprains cause pain, dysfunction, time off sport and often require treatment. Athletes who injure an ankle are prone to re-injure the same ankle and this can lead to to ongoing problems and chronic instability. Proprioception is a neuromuscular process concerned with internal kinaesthetic awareness of body position and movement. Proprioceptive training challenges the ability of the targeted joint to detect and react to afferent input regarding joint position. This training aims to help improve capabilities of this system in order to prevent primary and secondary injury.
A recent systematic review and meta analysis of randomised controlled trials (Schiftan, Ross and Hahne) looking at the effectiveness of proprioceptive training in reducing the incidence and recurrence rates of ankle sprains in the sporting population. Results showed that irrespective of ankle joint history status, there was a significant reduction of ankle sprain incidence when proprioceptive training was performed compared to a range of control interventions. Results favouring proprioceptive training remained significant for participants with a history of ankle sprain. The conclusion of this study was that proprioceptive training programmes are effective in reducing the rate of ankle sprains in sporting participants, particularly those with a history of ankle sprain. Current evidence remains inconclusive on the benefits for primary prevention of ankle sprains.

So to put this in a clinical setting, it is important you do seek treatment for an ankle sprain, not only to assist with resolving symptoms but to try to reduce the chance of re-injury on the same ankle. Examples of proprioceptive exercises are balancing on unstable surfaces, throwing a ball whilst standing on one leg, or doing a balancing activity with your eyes closed.

(Schiftan, Ross and Hahne. The Effectiveness of proprioceptive training in preventing ankle sprains in the sporting populations; a systematic review and meta-analysis. J. Sci Med Sport. 2015 May 18(3):238-244.)

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