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Tiffany Switlick, Thomas W. Kernozek and Stacey Meardon

Context:

A relationship between altered postural control and injury has been reported in sports. Sensorimotor function serves a fundamental role in postural control and is not often studied in runners. Persons who sustain running injury may have altered sensorimotor function contributing to risk of injury or reinjury.

Objectives:

To determine if differences in knee and ankle proprioception or plantar sensation exist between injured and noninjured runners.

Design:

Retrospective case-control study.

Setting:

University campus.

Participants:

Twenty runners with a history of lower-extremity overuse injury and 20 noninjured runners were examined. Injured runners were subcategorized into 2 groups based on site of injury: foot/ankle and knee/hip.

Main Outcome Measures:

Active absolute joint-repositioning error of the ankle at 20° inversion and 10° eversion and the knee at 15° and 40° flexion was assessed using an isokinetic dynamometer. Vibratory threshold at the calcaneus, arch, and great toe was determined for each subject using a handheld electric sensory threshold instrument.

Results:

Runners in the injured-foot/ankle group had increased absolute error during ankle-eversion repositioning (6.55° ± 3.58°) compared with those in the noninjured (4.04° ± 1.78°, P = .01) and the hip/knee (3.63° ± 2.2°, P = .01) groups. Runners in the injured group, as a whole, had greater sensitivity in the arch of the plantar surface (2.94 ± 0.52 V) than noninjured runners (2.38 ± 0.53 V, P = .02).

Conclusions:

Differences in ankle-eversion proprioception between runners with a history of ankle and foot injuries and noninjured runners were observed. Runners with a history of injury also displayed an increased vibratory threshold in the arch region compared with noninjured runners. Poor ankle-joint-position sense and increased plantar sensitivity suggest altered sensorimotor function after injury. These factors may influence underlying postural control and contribute to altered loading responses commonly observed in injured runners.