American researchers have found a simple, low-cost screening tool that can predict which athletes have an increased risk of ankle injury during football training. At the same time, it can help you to reduce this risk.
In their investigation, team players who were unable to maintain a one-leg balance (either one leg or the other leg) were 2.5 times more likely to have sprained their ankle joints during the ensuing season than those who passed the test. Those who failed the test and stapled their ankle had a 9-fold higher risk of ankle injury.
The researchers point out that ankle sprains are a common injury that can severely restrict the athlete's mobility, especially team sports such as American football, football and volleyball. Ankle sprain accounts for 12-20% of all sports injuries and accounts for 16% of total time lost to sports injuries.
Athletes who perform poorly in a stable-balance test that measures balance disorders have a demonstrably increased risk of ankle injury. But stabilometric devices are expensive and not always available for entrance exams. So, these researchers set out to see if the one-leg balance test, which uses no equipment at all, would be a useful alternative for predicting ankle sprain.
A group of 230 athletes from universities and high schools in American football, men's and women's football and women's volleyball were closely examined at the end of their entrance test (PPE). This was done using the one-leg balance test.
The test required the athletes to close their eyes for 10 seconds while standing on one leg without shoes, flexing the other knee without touching the strained leg. An athlete was considered "positive" if he or she was unable to do the test on the left and / or right leg. The participants were then re-examined throughout the season to record the incidence of ankle injuries. Over a period of 14 weeks, 28 ankle sprains were found among the 230 athletes. And the researchers were able to show that athletes with a positive one-leg balance test were significantly more likely to contract this injury, especially if they did not bandage their hocks.
Interestingly, in this study, there was no association between past ankle injuries and future ankle sprains, although it was more likely in advance for people with previous injuries that they would fare poorly in the one-leg balance test.
The researchers noted, "While the one-leg balance test was used to predict injury, the exact mechanism responsible for this increased risk of injury remains unknown."
More research is needed to determine this mechanism - but for the time being, the results show once again how important tape dressing is for athletes with an increased risk of injury.
British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2006, Vol. 40, pp. 610-613