Neuromuscular and proprioceptive exercises are increasing in popularity during rehabilitation following sports injuries such as ankle sprains and ACL tears. These interventions typically include balance exercises such as Thera-Band® kicks and balance board training. Researchers from Germany completed a systematic review of studies evaluating the effectiveness of proprioceptive and neuromuscular training. 15 clinical trials involving ankle sprains and ACL rehabilitation met the researchers’ inclusion criteria.
The authors concluded that proprioceptive exercise and neuromuscular training are effective at improving function, decreasing symptoms of instability, and preventing re-injury after ankle sprains. Surprisingly, the authors concluded that neuromuscular training was not more effective than strengthening exercise for post-operative ACL reconstruction. In addition, proprioceptive training after injury had no effect on muscle strength, muscle activation or edema, and had more impact on dynamic balance than static balance. There was conflicting evidence on training effects on joint position sense and muscle reaction.
The researchers recommended that training must last 6 to 12 weeks, but the wide variety of exercise and prescription (volume and intensity) made it difficult to recommend specific dosages of exercise. They also commented on the poor methodological quality, lack of applicable studies on shoulder exercises, and need for more research. Based on the evidence, there is moderate evidence that proprioceptive exercises should be included in rehabilitation after ankle and ACL sprains.