The position of the foot before the ground contact during running and walking may put people at risk of ankle sprains, suggests University of Georgia kinesiology researcher.
Cathleen Brown Crowell, an assistant professor in the UGA College of Education's department of kinesiology, found that people who have a history of repetitive ankle sprains demonstrated lower clearance heights between their feet and the floor during running, and pointed their toes down more during walking.
Ankle sprains are the most common sports-related injury, and many who experience a sprain will go on to develop chronic instability, suffering repeated sprains during their lifetime.
Crowell collected data on more than 30 male recreational athletes, some with a history of repetitive ankle sprains and some without, and analyzed joint movements and forces in them during walking and running.
She analyzed all three possible motions of the ankle, and included participants who had different types of ankle instability.
"Many people develop repetitive ankle injuries that are painful, can decrease performance and increase the risk of ankle osteoarthritis. We were able to identify factors in foot positioning prior to contact with the ground that may pre-dispose some people to these repetitive injuries," said Crowell.
"Our study demonstrates there are differences in movements at the foot and ankle in an injured population, which may respond to rehabilitation interventions beyond typical stretching and strengthening," she added.
"These findings can help clinicians develop rehabilitation programs that address movements that may have been ignored in the past," she added.
The results appear in the June online edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.