Both balance training and selected interventions meant to target sensory structures (STARS) have been shown to be effective at restoring deficits associated with chronic ankle instability (CAI). Clinicians often use multiple treatment modalities in patients with CAI. However, evidence for combined intervention effectiveness in CAI patients remains limited.
To determine if augmenting a balance-training protocol with STARS (BTS) results in greater improvements than balance training (BT) alone in those with CAI.
24 CAI participants (age 21.3 ± 2.0 y; height 169.8 ± 12.9 cm; mass 72.5 ± 22.2 kg) were randomized into 2 groups: BT and BTS.
Participants completed a 4-week progression-based balance-training protocol consisting of 3 20-min sessions per week. The experimental group also received a 5-min set of STARS treatments consisting of calf stretching, plantar massage, ankle joint mobilizations, and ankle joint traction before each balance-training session.
Main Outcome Measures:
Outcomes included self-assessed disability, Star Excursion Balance Test reach distance, and time-to-boundary calculated from static balance trials. All outcomes were assessed before, and 24-hours and 1-week after protocol completion. Self-assessed disability was also captured 1-month after the intervention.
No significant group differences were identified (P > .10). Both groups demonstrated improvements in all outcome categories after the interventions (P < .10), many of which were retained at 1-week posttest (P < .10). Although 90% CIs include zero, effect sizes favor BTS. Similarly, only the BTS group exceeded the minimal detectable change for time-to-boundary outcomes.
While statistically no more effective, exceeding minimal detectable change scores and favorable effect sizes suggest that a 4-week progressive BTS program may be more effective at improving self-assessed disability and postural control in CAI patients than balance training in isolation.