Ankle ligament laxity and stiffness in chronic ankle instability.
BACKGROUND: The contribution of mechanical laxity and ligament stiffness to chronic ankle instability is unclear, particularly when using the inversion laxity test, and may have implications for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Our purpose was to determine if individuals with chronic ankle instability demonstrate greater mechanical ligament laxity and altered stiffness compared to controls and copers (those with a healed sprain) during an instrumented arthrometer inversion stress test. METHODS: Recreationally active individuals were classified as those with chronic ankle instability (n = 16), copers (n = 16), or controls (n = 16) based on injury history and self-reported score on the Cumberland Ankle Instability Tool (CAIT). Three trials of an inversion stress test were applied with an instrumented arthrometer utilizing a reliable tester. Talocrural inversion (degrees) and stiffness values were extracted. One-way ANOVAs were calculated, and Tukey post hoc testing was applied (α ≤ .05). RESULTS: Groups were not different in age, height, or weight. The chronic ankle instability group (19 ± 6) had significantly lower CAIT scores than the control (30 ± 1) and coper (29 ± 1) groups (P < .001). The chronic ankle instability group (23 ± 12 degrees) demonstrated significantly greater inversion than the controls (13 ± 9 degrees) (P = .04) but was not significantly different than the copers (17 ± 10 degrees). No significant differences were detected in stiffness between the groups. CONCLUSION: The chronic ankle instability group demonstrated decreased self-reported ankle function and increased mechanical laxity utilizing an instrumented arthrometer for inversion compared to the control group but not the coper group. Laxity, but not stiffness, may be a factor affecting chronic ankle instability and self-reported function. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III, comparative study.