Ankle sprains are the most common sports-related injury, and they are particularly prevalent in sports that require a lot of jumping, pivoting and/or changing direction. Athletes who sprain their ankles typically experience pain, disability and dysfunction, and they are also more prone to reinjure the same ankle again. For this reason, certain measures like taping and bracing may be used to reduce the risk for ankle sprains and have been found to be effective; however, there are some disadvantages to each of them. Preventative exercise programs may avoid these disadvantages while still protecting the ankle, so long as patients comply. Proprioceptive training is one type of program that's been found to prevent ankle sprains, but it's only been studied in combination with other exercise components. Therefore, a powerful study pairing called a systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to determine if proprioceptive training alone could reduce the incidence or recurrence of ankle sprains in athletes.
Five medical databases were searched for relevant studies on proprioceptive training to prevent ankle sprains. Proprioceptive training includes a series of exercises intended to teach the body to control the position of a deficient or injured joint. From this, 345 studies were identified and seven were accepted and included in the meta-analysis.
Results showed that when considering all athletes of various sports, regardless of their ankle injury history status, proprioceptive training was found to have a preventative effect on ankle sprains. From this, it was calculated that approximately 17 athletes, or 13 participants with a history of ankle sprain would need to undergo this training in order to prevent one future ankle sprain. The preventative benefits of proprioceptive training were found to be substantial for athletes with a history of ankle sprain, but the evidence is not as strong for athletes without this history, and more research is needed on this topic. Despite this, it appears that proprioceptive training can serve an important role in reducing ankle sprains for active individuals; however, its use in those with no history of ankle sprain will have less of an impact than in those with a history.