The Effects of Isolated Ankle Strengthening and Functional Balance Training on Strength, Running Mechanics, Postural Control and Injury Prevention in Novice Runners: Design of a Randomized Controlled Trial

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Jennifer Baltich; Carolyn A Emery; Darren Stefanyshyn; Benno M Nigg



Risk factors have been proposed for running injuries including (a) reduced muscular strength, (b) excessive joint movements and (c) excessive joint moments in the frontal and transverse planes. To date, many running injury prevention programs have focused on a “top down” approach to strengthen the hip musculature in the attempt to reduce movements and moments at the hip, knee, and/or ankle joints. However, running mechanics did not change when hip muscle strength increased. It could be speculated that emphasis should be placed on increasing the strength of the ankle joint for a “ground up” approach. Strengthening of the large and small muscles crossing the ankle joint is assumed to change the force distribution for these muscles and to increase the use of smaller muscles. This would be associated with a reduction of joint and insertion forces, which could have a beneficial effect on injury prevention. However, training of the ankle joint as an injury prevention strategy has not been studied. Ankle strengthening techniques include isolated strengthening or movement-related strengthening such as functional balance training. There is little knowledge about the efficacy of such training programs on strength alteration, gait or injury reduction.


Novice runners will be randomly assigned to one of three groups: an isolated ankle strengthening group (strength, n = 40), a functional balance training group (balance, n = 40) or an activity-matched control group (control, n = 40). Isokinetic strength will be measured using a Biodex System 3 dynamometer. Running kinematics and kinetics will be assessed using 3D motion analysis and a force platform. Postural control will be assessed by quantifying the magnitude and temporal structure of the center of pressure trace during single leg stance on a force platform. The change pre- and post-training in isokinetic strength, running mechanics, and postural control variables will be compared following the interventions. Injuries rates will be compared between groups over 6 months.


Avoiding injury will allow individuals to enjoy the benefits of participating in aerobic activities and reduce the healthcare costs associated with running injuries.


Baltich J, Emery CA, Stefanyshyn D, Nigg BM. The effects of isolated ankle strengthening and functional balance training on strength, running mechanics, postural control and injury prevention in novice runners: design of a randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2014;15:407. Published 2014 Dec 4. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-407

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