Description: Researchers are studying the difference in the way people handle ankle injuries to determine better strategies to heal.
Start: June 22, 2015
End: December 31, 2016
Sponsor: National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation
Principal Investigator: Ty Hopkins
Co-PI(s): Jun Son
Almost 23,000 ankle-related injuries happen daily with a surprising $2 billion cost to the United States each year. Ankle sprain pain can last up to three years for almost half of these patients. Furthermore, 15% of all sports injuries are linked to ankle sprains. Because of these high numbers of ankle injuries, researcher Ty Hopkins and his team have set out to understand more about ankle instability. Professor Hopkins is most interested in ankle instability and how it compares to other patients, or more specifically, “copers.” Copers are categorized as patients who have suffered an ankle sprain but are still able to successfully heal and perform difficult physical tasks without eventual chronic pain. On the other hand, ankle instability is a chronic condition characterized by several symptoms including pain, swelling, repeated injury to the same ankle, and lack of balance and function. If ankle instability persists, it can result in less range of motion or looseness in the ankle and surrounding areas. Hopkins believes it’s possible that copers have learned to move their body in a specific way that makes them recover differently and more successfully. Some things that may affect a coper’s ability to heal include his or her health, the tasks they choose to complete (such as jumping versus walking), and their environment (involvement in rehab, etc.).
Hopkins further theorizes that those with chronic ankle instability have not learned how to walk in such a way that allows them to properly heal and avoid pain. In this study the researchers will observe participants completing relatively challenging but doable tasks. For example, at one point participants will have to jump at least three feet forward to land on the test leg and then immediately jump to the side. The researchers will then evaluate the condition of the patients’ ankles.
This study is designed to ultimately help Hopkins and his team better understand what conditions including actions, positions and forces cause chronic ankle instability. Hopkins hypothesizes that copers’ ankle movements will vary in the way they land after jumping: he predicts they will suddenly decelerate upon landing and immediately change their direction (as in step to the side to compensate for the jump). Through looking at all dependent variables associated with the neuromechanical ankle movements rather than one single measure, Hopkins will be able to better understand the differences in between the two patients.
Recent studies have shown that there is a difference between the ankle instability patients and the copers. However, these studies haven’t been very specific about the types of movements each patient made to cope with their injuries. Additionally, few studies have used copers as a comparison group in ankle instability research. Because of these two main distinguishing characteristics, this study will provide new valuable information for doctors and physical therapists.
This project will serve to help scientists to understand the disability scores, or level of disability, AI patients have in comparison to other patients who cope with injuries and uninjured patients. They will be able to see which muscles surrounding the ankle are activated after injury. Through this, doctors will be able to know how to better treat these patients in the future which will ultimately decrease the prevalence of ankle instability.