Can Balance Predict Ankle Injuries?
By Dr. Jeffrey Frederick
July 02, 2012
Category: Ankle Sprain

Studies have shown that many people who have a tendency for repeated ankle sprains also have poor balance.  In a study of high school basketball players, researches wanted to find out if gender, leg dominance, and balance scores were related to ankle sprain injuries.  Using a force plate along with a computer program, they measured the average degree of sway per second for each subject by having subjects stand on one leg for three trials of 10 seconds with their eyes open, then repeating the trials with their eyes closed.  Subjects then underwent the same assessment while standing on the other leg.  Their results showed that higher postural sway scores corresponded to increased ankle sprain injury rates. Using the sway scores, subjects who demonstrated poor balance had nearly seven times as many ankle sprains as subjects who had good balance!

How can you improve your balance?

When an ankle is sprained, the supporting ligaments to the joint are injured.  These ligaments heal in a stretched position, making them more lax or loose.  The balance receptors in the injured ligaments are damaged as well, decreasing feedback to the brain about the position of the joint in space.  With each ankle sprain, the body’s ability to sense and control balance becomes diminished, leading to increased susceptibility for repeated injury.

To do an easy assessment of your balance at home, try standing on one foot while keeping your chin level to the floor with eyes straight ahead (make sure to have something nearby to hold on to, for example a counter top).  If you are unable to hold the position for 15 seconds without holding on to anything, the better the chances are that you will sprain an ankle, often repeatedly.  Various simple exercises can be performed at home to increase the strength of the muscles and ligaments in the ankle and improve balance. 

While ankle supports and braces are helpful to provide stability to the weakened joint during exercise, pursuing a balance regimen to increase stability is particularly helpful to prevent future sprains.  Increasing stability can be as simple as standing on one foot and balancing when you are brushing your teeth every day.  Once this gets too easy, try it with your eyes closed (make sure a steady object or surface is available nearby in case you need it!).  Various balance boards and mats are available if you’re looking for a greater challenge.

Thank you for visiting our website!  Please continue to learn more about your foot care needs by reading other informative articles and by visiting our helpful links.  NorthPointe Foot & Ankle is located in Berkley, MI and has been serving people around the Berkley, Southfield, Ferndale, Royal Oak and surrounding areas for over 30 years.  Request an appointment via our website or call our office at (248) 545-0100.