Background: Many athletes, especially at elite university level, suffer from chronic ankle instability (CAI). Chronic ankle instability usually occurs after simple ankle sprain from poor landing. The repetitive injury causes chronic ankle instability. This chronic ankle instability leads to poor performance and recurrent injury during training and competition. A proper rehabilitation program may improve performance and prevent further injury.
Objectives: We aimed to compare the effect of a 6-week functional rehabilitation program in athletes with chronic ankle instability between a hydrotherapy plus ankle taping group and a land-based plus ankle taping group on ankle functional ability, ankle joint position sense and the number of reinjuries.
Methods: Forty-seven university level athletes with chronic ankle instability and residual symptoms were randomized into a hydrotherapy group (24 participants) and a land-based group (23 participants). All participants were taped using a heel lock technique at the injured ankle during the training session. The rehabilitation program included stretching, aerobic exercise, balance exercise, strengthening exercise, and skill training using an aquatic or land-based environment according to the group for 6 weeks. A single-limb hopping test and ankle joint position sense were measured at baseline, 6 weeks, and 3 months. Recurrent ankle injuries were also recorded.
Results: In the hydrotherapy group, the time taken in the single-limb hopping test significantly decreased immediately after exercise and at the follow up compared with baseline (p = 0.001). In the land-based group, time taken in the single-limb hopping test significantly decreased at 3 months follow up compared with baseline (p = 0.05). No significant differences were detected between groups in ankle joint position sense and the number of recurrent ankle sprains. All participants returned to their athletic activity and competition.
Conclusion: The combined rehabilitation program of ankle taping, land-based exercise and/or hydrotherapy could be recommended for clinical uses in athletes with chronic ankle instability.