Study suggests key to avoiding ankle re-injury may be in the hips and knees

October 17, 2011, University of Georgia

Nearly all active people suffer ankle sprains at some point in their lives, and a new University of Georgia study suggests that the different ways people move their hip and knee joints may influence the risk of re-injury.

In the past, therapists prescribed strengthening and stretching exercises that targeted only ankle joints after a sprain. The study by UGA kinesiology researchers, published in the early online edition of the journal Clinical Biomechanics, suggests that movements at the knee and may play a role in ankle sprains as well.

"If you have ankle sprains, you may have a problem with the way you move, and we think we can change movement through rehabilitation," said Cathleen Brown, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the department of kinesiology in the College of Education.

Past studies on have shown that some people are able to return to sports or physical activities without a problem. Brown and her team, which includes associate professor Kathy J. Simpson, also in the kinesiology department, want to know why some recover completely.

"One theory for explaining those divergent paths is that a person comes up with good strategies to move, land, balance and not get re-injured," Brown said.

For the study, 88 participants were divided into three groups: an uninjured control group, active people who still experienced problems after an ankle sprain and "copers," or people who had been injured but no longer felt pain or weakness in their ankle. Participants dressed in an Avatar-like body suit that sent data to cameras and computers detailing the exact position of ankle, knee and hip joints. Each person stood 27.5 inches away from an in-ground metal platform and jumped to reach a target, then landed on one foot without assistance.

Of the three groups, the uninjured group bent their knees and swayed their hips side-to-side more often than either of the other groups. However, the "copers" also showed differences in those joint movements. The injured group with lingering ankle pain appeared unable to use their knee and hip joints as well when landing on the metal surface.

"Maybe the injured people don't use the same landing strategies, or their strategies aren't as effective," Brown said, adding that the study was a snapshot in time, not a long-term follow-up. By the time subjects were included in the research study, they have usually already injured themselves. "We don't know if they are this way because of the injury, or if they got this injury because they land this way."

The current study looked at the knees, hips and ankles in isolation, and the next step for the team will be to examine the joints in combination. If future studies allow the researchers to identify particular movement patterns as helpful, the research could be directly translated into new techniques for rehabilitation therapists and the public in general.

Brown said the current study builds on a similar study published in June 2011 that examined ankle injuries based on the amount of clearance between the foot and the ground. In that study, she found that participants with previous ankle injuries kept their feet closer to the ground, with their toes pointing downward, while running.

"I always try to encourage people who are having a lot of problems with their ankle to see a health care professional who would be able to help them," she said. "There are negative long-term consequences to ankle instability, such as osteoarthritis, that may be preventable with treatment."

Explore further: Foot positioning during walking and running may influence ankle sprains

Related Stories

Foot positioning during walking and running may influence ankle sprains

June 30, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The position of the foot just before ground contact during running and walking may put people at risk for ankle sprains, according to a new study published by a University of Georgia kinesiology researcher.

Study shows lace-up ankle braces keep athletes on the court

July 8, 2011
Lace-up ankle braces can reduce the occurrence of acute ankle injuries in male and female high school basketball players, according to research presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's Annual Meeting ...

Could an 'ankle hotline' relieve strain on health care demands?

August 10, 2011
Should lower leg strains and sprains take up valuable ER time and resources? According to a new study by Kaj Lambers and colleagues, from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, strains and sprains account for over ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.