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Ankle Sprains in Athletes: Who's At Risk?

Almost one-third of all athletic injuries are ankle sprains. Finding risk factors may give players, coaches, and trainers a chance to prevent these injuries. In this study physical therapists, doctors, and athletic trainers team up to look at the effect of balance and hip strength on ankle sprains.

High school athletes (boys and girls) from a variety of sporting events were included in this study. Preseason hip strength and standing balance were measured for all 169 athletes. Other factors viewed as possible risks were also considered such as gender, loose ligaments, and body mass index (BMI).

All athletes were followed for two years. Noncontact ankle sprains were recorded during that time. Noncontact sprains occurred when the player was alone and not during a tackle or during body contact with another player.

Results showed that females had better balance but there was no difference between males and females for number of noncontact ankle sprains. A history of previous ankle sprain seemed to be the biggest risk factor. Being overweight was also a risk factor for the male athletes. When combined together these two risk factors increased the risk even more.

Hip strength and balance do not appear to have an impact on ankle sprains. Previous history of ankle sprain and being overweight are better predictors, especially for male high school athletes.

Malachy P. McHugh, PhD, et al. Risk Factors for Noncontact Ankle Sprains in High School Athletes. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. March 2006. Vol. 34. No. 3. Pp. 464-470.

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