Chronic ankle sprains have been attributed to poor sensorimotor control, resulting in “functional ankle instability.” First described in the 1960’s by Freeman and Wyke, functional ankle instability has been postulated to result from a lack of proprioceptive information from the ankle due to “deafferentation.” Functional ankle instability is associated with chronic ankle sprains; patients with functional ankle instability may have normal strength and ligament structure, yet continue to suffer ankles sprains. Progressive balance exercise programs have been shown effective at reducing functional instability and recurring ankle sprains. Sensorimotor training programs for ankle instability often include balance exercises that use foam pads such as Thera-Band® Stability Trainers.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky developed a progressive balance training program for patients with chronic ankle instability. The program lasted 4 weeks and focused on dynamic balance stabilization in single-leg stance. Exercises included progressions in hops and single-leg balance using foam pads and 6-pound medicine balls. The results of their first study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2008, found that their program significantly improved function and postural control in chronic ankle sprain patients. In their more recent study, 29 subjects with chronic ankle instability were randomly assigned to either an exercise group or control group. The authors reported improvements in gait kinematics, specifically the coupling of rearfoot and lower leg motion during walking. The researchers noted that the changes in gait kinematics following the exercise program were likely due to changes in sensorimotor function resulting from the 4- week balance training program, particularly since ligamentous laxity did not change.
In summary, a 4-week progressive balance training program implementing hops and single-leg balance exercises with Thera-Band Stability Trainers can help improve balance, function, and kinematics in patients with chronic ankle instability.
McKeon PO, et al. Effects of balance training on gait parameters in patients with chronic ankle instability: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. 2009 Jul;23(7):609-21. Epub 2009 May 15.
McKeon PO, et al. Balance training improves function and postural control in those with chronic ankle instability. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Oct;40(10):1810-9.