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Robert J. Reyburn and Cameron J. Powden

Context: Ankle braces have been theorized to augment dynamic balance. Objectives: To complete a systematic review with meta-analysis of the available literature assessing the effect of ankle braces on dynamic balance in individuals with and without chronic ankle instability (CAI). Evidence Acquisition: Electronic databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus) were searched from inception to October 2019 using combinations of keywords related to dynamic balance, ankle braces, Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT), Y-Balance Test (YBT), and Time to Stabilization. Inclusion criteria required that studies examined the effects of ankle braces on dynamic balance. Studies were excluded if they evaluated other conditions besides CAI, did not access dynamic balance, or did not use an ankle brace. Methodological quality was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. The level of evidence was assessed using the Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy. The magnitude of brace effects on dynamic balance was examined using Hedges g effect sizes (ESs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Random-effects meta-analysis was performed to synthesize SEBT/YBT and Time to Stabilization data separately. Data Synthesis: Seven studies were included with a median Physiotherapy Evidence Database score of 60% (range 50%–60%), and 4 were classified as high quality. Overall meta-analysis indicated a weak to no effect of braces on SEBT/YBT (ES = 0.117; 95% CI, −0.080 to 0.433; P = .177) and Time to Stabilization (ES = −0.064; 95% CI, −0.211 to 0.083, P = .083). Subanalysis of SEBT/YBT measures indicated a weak negative effect in healthy participants (ES = −0.116; 95% CI, −0.209 to −0.022, P = .015) and a strong positive effect in individuals with CAI (ES = 0.777; 95% CI, 0.418 to 1.136; P < .001). Conclusion: The current literature supports a strong effect of ankle braces on the SEBT/YBT in those with CAI. However, little to no dynamic balance changes were noted in healthy participants. Future research should include consistent ankle brace types, pathologic populations, and the examination of dynamic balance changes contribution to injury risk reduction.

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Diulian Muniz Medeiros, César Marchiori and Bruno Manfredini Baroni

Context: Nordic hamstring exercise (NHE) has been widely employed to prevent hamstring strain injuries. However, it is still not clear which adaptations are responsible for the NHE preventive effects. Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of NHE on knee flexors eccentric strength and fascicle length. Evidence Acquisition: The search strategy included MEDLINE, PEDro, and Cochrane CENTRAL from inception to April 2020. Randomized clinical trials that have analyzed the effects of NHE training on hamstring eccentric strength and/or fascicle length were included. Evidence Synthesis: From the 1932 studies identified, 12 were included in the systematic review, and 9 studies presented suitable data for the meta-analysis. All studies demonstrated strength increments in response to NHE training (10%–15% and 16%–26% in tests performed on the isokinetic dynamometer and on the NHE device, respectively), as well as significant enhancement of biceps femoris long head fascicle length (12%–22%). Meta-analysis showed NHE training was effective to increase knee flexors eccentric strength assessed with both isokinetic tests (0.68; 95% confidence interval, 0.29 to 1.06) and NHE tests (1.11; 95% confidence interval, 0.62 to 1.61). NHE training was also effective to increase fascicle length (0.97; 95% confidence interval, 0.46 to 1.48). Conclusions: NHE training has the potential of increasing both knee flexors eccentric strength and biceps femoris long head fascicle length.

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Chee Vang and Alexander Niznik

Clinical Scenario: Patellar tendinopathy is a common musculoskeletal disorder affecting the lower-extremities and a difficult condition to manage for athletes that are in season. To facilitate improvement in function and to decrease pain, initial treatment for patellar tendinopathy is typically conservative. Traditional interventions may include eccentric training, cryotherapy, patellar counterforce straps, oral anti-inflammatories, injectable agents, phonophoresis, iontophoresis, orthotics, therapeutic ultrasound, and extracorporeal shockwave. In addition, recent literature suggests that implementing isometric and isotonic contractions may be effective in reducing patellar tendon pain. Focused Clinical Question: How effective are isometric contractions compared with isotonic contractions in reducing pain for in-season athletes with patellar tendinopathy? Summary of Key Findings: Implementation of isometric and isotonic exercises statistically reduced pain levels in the short term of 4 weeks for in-season athletes; however, isometric contractions provided statistically greater pain relief immediately for up to 45 minutes postintervention compared with isotonic contractions. Clinical Bottom Line: Current evidence supports the use of isometric and isotonic contractions to reduce pain for in-season athletes with patellar tendinopathy. Based on the reviewed literature, clinicians should consider utilizing heavy loaded isometrics or progressive heavy loaded isotonic exercises, which showed reduction in pain levels immediately after intervention and at 4-week follow-up for both intervention groups. Isometric contractions appear to provide greater pain relief immediately after intervention. Strength of Recommendation: There is Grade B evidence from 2 level 2 randomized controlled trials and 1 level 3 randomized crossover study supporting the use of isometric and isotonic contractions to reduce patellar tendon pain for in-season athletes.

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Behnam Gholami-Borujeni, Ali Yalfani and Leila Ahmadnezhad

This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of 8-week inspiratory muscle training on activity in the ankle muscles of athletes with chronic low-back pain. A randomized controlled trial involving 45 men and women with chronic low-back pain was carried out. Electromyography activity in the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus, gastrocnemius medialis, and gastrocnemius lateralis muscles of the dominant leg was recorded. Secondary outcomes included biopsychosocial indices, such as pain, disability, anxiety and depression, fear-avoidance beliefs, and fear of (re)injury. Static and dynamic overhead squat tests showed that inspiratory muscle training decreased activity in the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus, and gastrocnemius medialis muscles. In the static single-leg squat test and the descending phase of the dynamic equivalent, such a decrease was observed in all the 4 muscles. Inspiratory muscle training significantly reduced pain severity and activity in the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus, and gastrocnemius medialis muscles during the ascending phase of the dynamic single-leg squat test. On the basis of the findings, 8 weeks of inspiratory muscle training may constitute useful rehabilitation for reducing excessive activity in ankle joint muscles and aiding chronic low-back pain recovery.

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Connor A. Burton, Robert J. Arthur, Matthew J. Rivera and Cameron J. Powden

Context: Chronic ankle instability (CAI) is one of the most common chronic conditions in the world, resulting in millions of dollars contributed to the health care system. Joint mobilizations have been shown to effectively improve patient and disease-specific impairments secondary to CAI. The ability for patients to complete an effective manual therapy intervention without the need for continuous visits to a health care provider can alleviate burdens on the health care system and improve patient satisfaction. Objective: To examine the effect of clinician-applied Maitland talocrural joint mobilization and self-mobilization (Self-Mob) on dorsiflexion range of motion (DFROM), dynamic balance, strength, and perceived function in those with CAI. Design: Single-blind randomized trial. Setting: Research laboratory. Participants: A total of 18 participants (7 males and 11 females; age = 20.78 [2.02] y, height = 67.66 [3.83] cm, limb length = 87.74 [5.05] cm) with self-reported CAI participated. Interventions: The participants received 6 interventions over a 2-week period. The participants received either Maitland grade III anterior-to-posterior talocrural joint mobilizations or weight-bearing lunge Self-Mob. Each intervention consisted of four 2-minute sets, with a 1-minute rest between sets. Main Outcome Measures: The DFROM (weight-bearing lunge), dynamic balance (Y-Balance Test), isometric strength, Foot and Ankle Ability Measure Quick, Disablement of the Physically Active modified, Fear Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire, and Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia-11 were measured preintervention and postintervention. Results: Dynamic balance, isometric strength, and perceived function significantly improved in both groups at postintervention. The DFROM significantly improved in the Self-Mob group. Higher individual responder rates were demonstrated within the Self-Mob group compared with clinician-applied mobilizations. Conclusions: Clinician-applied mobilizations and Self-Mobs are effective interventions for improving dynamic balance, isometric strength, and perceived function. Application of Self-Mobs can effectively improve DFROM compared with joint mobilization. Self-Mobs may be an effective intervention to incorporate into a home care plan.

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Shogo Takano, Yoshitaka Iwamoto, Junya Ozawa and Nobuhiro Kito

Context: Previous studies have reported that the incidence of patellofemoral pain in women is 2.2 times higher than that in men. Lower hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness in women may be related to the magnitude of hip adduction and internal rotation associated with patellofemoral pain. Objective: To identify sex differences in hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness and examine the relationship between hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness and hip adduction and internal rotation during gait. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: University campus. Participants: A total of 80 healthy volunteers (40 women and 40 men) participated in this study. Intervention(s): Kinematic and kinetic data during gait were collected using a motion capture system and force plates. Main Outcome Measures: Hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness, hip adduction, and hip internal rotation were calculated during gait. Results: Women demonstrated lower hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness than men during gait (P < .01). They also displayed decreased hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness associated with increased hip adduction (r = −.85, P < .001) and internal rotation (r = −.48, P < .001). Conversely, in men, decreased hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness was associated with increased hip adduction (r = −.74, P < .001) but not internal rotation (r = .17, P = .28). Conclusions: Sex differences between hip frontal dynamic joint stiffness and hip internal rotation during gait may contribute to the increased incidence of patellofemoral pain in women.

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Richelle M. Williams, Rachel S. Johnson, Alison R. Snyder Valier, R. Curtis Bay and Tamara C. Valovich McLeod

Context: Concussions are shown to hinder multiple health dimensions, including health-related quality of life (HRQOL), suggesting a need for a whole-person approach to assessment and treatment. Patient-reported outcome measures are one method to gather the patient’s perspective regarding their HRQOL. Objective: To evaluate perceived HRQOL using the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Pediatric-25 subscale in patients throughout concussion recovery. Design: Prospective cohort, descriptive survey. Setting: There were 9 high school athletic training facilities. Participants: A total of 70 patients with diagnosed concussions (51 males, 7 females, 12 unreported; age = 15.7 [0.9] y, height = 174.6 [8.4] cm, mass = 72.8 [14.8] kg, grade = 10.0 [0.9] level). Interventions: Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Pediatric-25 was administered at 3 days, 10 days postconcussion, and return to play (RTP). Main Outcome Measures: Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Pediatric-25 subscale T scores and self-reported concussion history (yes/no). Results: A total of 70 patients completed the study. For the Pediatric-25 subscales, the severity of problems associated with Physical Function Mobility, Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue, and Pain Interference were highest 3 days postconcussion, decreasing at 10 days and RTP (all p < .05). No differences were found between days 3 and 10 for Peer Relationship scores, but improvements were identified at RTP (p < .05). Pediatric-25 subscale scores at the 3 measurements were not statistically associated with concussion history (all p > .05). Ceiling and floor effects were present in all subscales throughout each timepoint, except for Physical Function Mobility (14.7%), and pain interference (11.8%) at day 3 postinjury. Conclusions: Patients who had suffered a concussion improved from day 3 through RTP on multiple health domains as demonstrated through the Pediatric-25 subscales. These findings highlight the need for health care professionals to serially monitor HRQOL and social factors that may affect the patient postconcussion as part of a multifactorial assessment. Ceiling effects in high functioning adolescent athletes were present; thus, efforts should be made to identify appropriate scales for use in managing recovery in athletic populations.

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Parisa Alaei, Noureddin Nakhostin Ansari, Soofia Naghdi, Zahra Fakhari, Shiva Komesh and Jan Dommerholt

Context: Hamstring muscle tightness is one of the most common problems in athletic and healthy people. Dry needling (DN) was found to be an effective approach for improving muscle flexibility, but there is no study to compare this approach with static stretching (SS) as a common technique for the increase of muscle length. Objective: To compare the immediate effects of DN and SS on hamstring flexibility in healthy subjects with hamstring tightness. Study Design: A single-blind randomized controlled trial. Setting: A musculoskeletal physiotherapy clinic at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Subjects: Forty healthy subjects (female: 32, age range: 18–40 y) with hamstring tightness were randomly assigned into 2 groups of DN and SS. Intervention: The DN group received a single session of DN on 3 points of the hamstring muscles, each for 1 minute. The SS group received a single session of SS of the hamstrings, consisting of 3 sets of 30-second SS with a 10-second rest between sets in the active knee extension test (AKET) position. Main Outcome Measures: The AKET, muscle compliance, passive peak torque, and stretch tolerance were measured at the baseline, immediately, and 15 minutes after the interventions. Results: Improvements in all outcomes was better for the DN group than for the SS group. DN increased muscle compliance significantly 15 minutes after the intervention, but it did not improve in the SS group. Conclusion: DN is effective in improving hamstring flexibility compared with SS. One session of DN can be an effective treatment for hamstring tightness and increase hamstring flexibility. The improvements suggest that DN is a novel treatment for hamstring flexibility.

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Katherine L. Helly, Katherine A. Bain, Phillip A. Gribble and Matthew C. Hoch

Clinical Scenario: Patients with chronic ankle instability (CAI) demonstrate deficits in both sensory and motor function, which can be objectively evaluated through static postural control testing. One intervention that has been suggested to improve somatosensation and, in turn, static postural control is plantar massage. Clinical Question: Does plantar massage improve static postural control during single-limb stance in patients with CAI relative to baseline? Summary of Key Findings: A search was performed for articles exploring the effect of plantar massage on static postural control in individuals with CAI. Three articles were included in this critically appraised topic including 1 randomized controlled trial and 2 crossover studies. All studies supported the use of plantar massage to improve static postural control in patients with CAI. Clinical Bottom Line: There is currently good-quality and consistent evidence that supports the use of plantar massage as an intervention that targets the somatosensory system to improve static postural control in patients with CAI. Future research should focus on incorporating plantar massage as a treatment intervention during long-term rehabilitation protocols for individuals with CAI. Strength of Recommendation: In agreement with the Center of Evidence-Based Medicine, the consistent results from 2 crossover studies and 1 randomized controlled trial designate that there is level B evidence due to consistent, moderate- to high-quality evidence.