Ankle Supports – Help For Chronic Instability
Chronic ankle instability (CAI), is a condition of the foot that often persists after an initial ankle sprain. Many turn to ankle supports for help. The condition is described as self reported disability, recurrent ankle injury, reduced activity levels, and sensorimotor deficits or integration of the sensory and motor systems.
The causes can be varied, including altered gait mechanics after the initial sprain. Patients with instability have a more inverted foot position and decreased foot to floor clearance during walking and jogging, with a more lateral or outside foot positioning and loading pattern during barefoot running, center of pressure during side shifting.
The inconsistency of foot positioning and faulty gait patterns may increase the risk of further ankle injury. It only takes only an instant for an unstable ankle joint to exceed its safe ligament and tendon functional limits to be re-injured. Ankle supports to increase stability may help.
According to a 2003 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, higher injury rates and severity have been seen toward the end of soccer practices and games, indicating increased fatigue of the neuromuscular-control system. Nearly half of all ankle sprains in soccer happened during the last third of each half of matches. Fatigue during sustained athletic activity is considered an important risk factor for ankle sprain.
A 2004 study in the Journal of Athletic Training found dynamic postural control was disrupted in patients with chronic ankle instability compared with controls after a fatiguing lunge protocol and found this was amplified by fatigue.
A 2009 study in Clinical Biomechanics assessed variation in movement in those with functional ankle instability during a stop/jump maneuver. The participants showed greater variation in ankle motion in the frontal plane movement than those who had sprained their ankles only once.
They exhibited less consistent positioning of the foot in the frontal plane during this dynamic task. The authors indicate, if this variability is unable to be controlled or too great, individuals may exceed the limits of safe movement patterns, leading to further injury.
A 2021 study in Gait & Posture found elastic ankle supports reduce the range of sagittal plane running ankle kinematics with chronic ankle instability. This may reduce the risk for recurrent ankle sprains.
A 2019 study in Foot & Ankle Surgery found those with instability had a weakness of the peroneal muscles at the side of the ankle.
Ankle supports should be part of the solution. Strengthening appropriate muscles and proper healing during the initial stage of injury are important in prevention. Also, checking the knee as the next in the kinetic chain.