Functional ankle instability or a subjective report of ;;giving way'' at the ankle may be present in up to 40% of patients after a lateral ankle sprain. Damage to mechanoreceptors within the lateral ankle ligaments after injury is hypothesized to interrupt neurologic feedback mechanisms resulting in functional ankle instability. The altered input can lead to weakness of muscles surrounding a joint, or arthrogenic muscle inhibition. Arthrogenic muscle inhibition may be the underlying cause of functional ankle instability. Establishing the involvement of arthrogenic muscle inhibition in functional ankle instability is critical to understanding the underlying mechanisms or chronic ankle instability. The purpose of this investigation was to determine if arthrogenic muscle inhibition is present in the ankle joint musculature of patients exhibiting unilateral functional ankle instability.Twenty-nine subjects, 15 with unilateral functional ankle instability and 14 healthy control subjects, consented to participate. Bilateral soleus, peroneal, and tibialis anterior H-reflex and M-wave recruitment curves were obtained. Maximal H-reflex and maximal M-wave values were identified and the H:M ratios were calculated for data analysis. Separate 1 x 2 ANOVA were done for both the functional ankle instability and control groups to evaluate differences between limbs on the H:M ratios. Bonferroni multiple comparison procedures were used for post hoc comparisons (p < or = 0.05).
The soleus and peroneal H:M ratios for subjects with functional ankle instability were smaller in the injured limb when compared with the uninjured limb (p < 0.05). No limb difference was detected for the tibialis anterior H:M ratio in the functional ankle instability group (p = 0.904). No side-to-side differences were detected for the H:M ratios in patients reporting no history of ankle injury (p > 0.05).
Depressed H:M ratios in the injured limb suggest that arthrogenic muscle inhibition is present in the ankle musculature of patients exhibiting functional ankle instability. Establishing and using therapeutic techniques to reverse arthrogenic muscle inhibition may reduce the incidence of functional ankle instability.