Of all sports-related injuries, 15 to 45 percent are ankle ligament injuries. And if you or your clients participate in sports with a lot of jumping and cutting moves, ankle injuries are even more of a risk. The results of a recent study show that incorporating proprioceptive training into an exercise regime can help prevent recurrent ankle injuries.

German researchers divided 30 subjects (18 women and 12 men) with chronic ankle instability into two groups. All subjects were pain free at the beginning of the study. The exercise group (

  1. =20) participated in a six-week exercise program consisting of three test procedures. All participants were tested in joint position sensing (angle reproduction), postural sway and muscle reaction times before the exercise group began its six-week intervention program.

Once a week, the exercise group performed 12 different exercises with apparatus such as
a swinging platform, exercise bands, wooden inversion-eversion boards, mini trampoline and aerobic step. Subjects warmed up for five to 10 minutes and then performed each exercise for 45 seconds followed by a 30-second break in which they moved to the next exercise station. Subjects performed the entire program twice so that both ankles were exercised. The researchers increased the intensity of the training period every two weeks by making small modifications to each station.

In testing after the six-week exercise intervention, the exercise group showed significant improvement in all the tests. Also, 90 percent of the exercise group returned questionnaires one year after the training, which showed an almost 60-percent reduction in the frequency of ankle inversions in this group. No subject reported an increased frequency of ankle sprains and most reported feeling more ankle stability.

This study was originally reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (December 2001).