July 26, 2006

Simple test spots athletes at risk of ankle sprains

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A simple test -- basically
standing on one leg with eyes closed -- can help identify
whether or not an athlete is at risk of spraining an ankle, a
new study shows.

As many as one in five athletic injuries are due to ankle
sprains, and disability from the injury can persist for up to
six months, Drs. Thomas H. Trojian of the University of
Connecticut Health Center in Hartford and D.B. McKeag of the
Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis note in
the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Ankle sprains also reduce a person's stability, boosting
the risk of a repeat injury, they add.

A test known as stabilometry can identify whether or not a
person is at increased risk of ankle sprain, Trojian and McKeag
explain, but it requires special equipment that is too costly
for most high schools.

The single leg balance test, in which a person stands on
one foot with the other leg bent and then closes their eyes for
ten seconds, could provide a more readily available
alternative. If a person can't keep his or her balance for the
full ten seconds or reports feeling a sense of imbalance during
the test, he or she may be at increased risk of ankle sprain.

To investigate whether the single leg balance test could
predict ankle sprain risk, the researchers performed the test
in 230 high school varsity and intercollegiate athletes. The
study participants underwent the test before the beginning of
the autumn sports season.

During the season, 28 ankle sprains occurred. People with a
positive standing leg balance test -- meaning it revealed
balance problems -- were two-and-a-half times more likely to
suffer ankle sprains. Those who had a positive test and did not
tape their ankles were nearly nine times as likely to sprain
their ankles.

The researchers also found athletes who reported having
sprained their ankles in the past two years were more likely to
have a positive standing leg balance test, but were not more
likely to sprain their ankles during the current season.

In a brief commentary accompanying the study, Dr. E. J.
Swenson of the University of Rochester in New York notes that
the single leg balance test, along with a history of past
injuries and a detailed physical exam, "could help identify
those individuals who would benefit from bracing/taping, muscle
strengthening, and proprioceptive training."

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, July 2006.