Dec 20, 2021
Study Looks into Long-Term Impact of Ankle Sprains in Youth Sports

According to the results of a recent study published in Foot & Ankle International, the official journal of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, people who suffered an ankle sprain while playing youth sports had more pain and symptoms three to 15 years later, including poor function, reduced sport participation, poor balance and fear of pain, when compared to uninjured participants.

This study highlights the need to promote prevention of these types of injuries in youth sports.

ankle“It’s the most common injury in youth sport and recreation,” said Oluwatoyosi Owoeye, assistant professor at the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training at Saint Louis University, as well as an adjunct assistant professor at the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre at the University of Calgary, who is senior author of the study. “An ankle sprain is often perceived as a ‘simple’ injury that should not raise any concerns, but our study shows it may result in mid- and long-term negative health consequences.”

Researchers recruited a total of 86 participants for the study. The group was 77% female with an average age of 23. Of the total participants, 50 had sprained their ankle within a median of eight years, while the other 36 were uninjured control participants of similar age, sex, and sport exposure. The research team collected data through self-reported Foot and Ankle Outcome Scores, measures of body mass index, and tests to gauge physical activity, athletic identity, fear of pain, strength, balance, and function.

At 3-15 years following the injury, the injured participants had significantly worse symptoms by about 21% and poorer ankle-related quality of life by 16%, when compared to controls.

Owoeye notes the differences between the injured and control groups are substantial, and more research is needed. “Little is currently known about the prevention of post-ankle sprain health problems, so this study is very helpful in advancing this field of inquiry. Our future goal is to probe this further and develop secondary prevention strategies to lessen the long-term consequences of ankle sprains.”

To protect young athletes from these common injuries, Owoeye recommends adopting neuromuscular training programs (structured warmup exercise programs) to prevent ankle sprains from happening in the first place, as well as pre-sport taping and bracing to prevent ankle sprains from reoccurring.

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