Treatment of Common Deficits Associated with Chronic Ankle Instability Academic Article uri icon


  • Lateral ankle sprains are amongst the most common injuries incurred by athletes, with the high rate of reoccurrence after initial injury becoming of great concern. Chronic ankle instability (CAI) refers to the development of repetitive ankle sprains and persistent residual symptoms post-injury. Some of the initial symptoms that occur in acute sprains may persist for at least 6 months post-injury in the absence of recurrent sprains, despite the athlete having returned to full functional activity. CAI is generally thought to be caused by mechanical instability (MI) or functional instability (FI), or both. Although previously discussed as separate entities, recent research has demonstrated that deficits associated with both MI and FI may co-exist to result in CAI. For clinicians, the main deficits associated with CAI include deficits in proprioception, neuromuscular control, strength and postural control. Based on the literature reviewed, it does seem that subjects with CAI have a deficit in frontal plane ankle joint positional sense. Subjects with CAI do not appear to exhibit any increased latency in the peroneal muscles in response to an external perturbation. Preliminary data suggest that feed-forward neuromuscular control may be more important than feed-back neuromuscular control and interventions are now required to address deficits in feed-forward neuromuscular control. Balance training protocols have consistently been shown to improve postural stability in subjects with CAI. Subjects with CAI do not experience decreased peroneus longus strength, but instead may experience strength deficits in the ankle joint invertor muscles. These findings are of great clinical significance in terms of understanding the mechanisms and deficits associated with CAI. An appreciation of these is vital to allow clinicians to develop effective prevention and treatment programmes in relation to CAI.

publication date

  • 2009