Chronic ankle instability and neural excitability of the lower extremity

Michelle M. McLeod, Phillip A. Gribble, Brian G. Pietrosimone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Context: Neuromuscular dysfunction of the leg and thigh musculature, including decreased strength and postural control, is common in patients with chronic ankle instability (CAI). Understanding how CAI affects specific neural pathways may provide valuable information for targeted therapies. Objective: To investigate differences in spinal reflexive and corticospinal excitability of the fibularis longus and vastus medialis between limbs in patients with unilateral CAI and between CAI patients and participants serving as healthy controls. Design: Case-control study. Setting: Research laboratory. Patients or Other Participants: A total of 56 participants volunteered, and complete data for 21 CAI patients (9 men, 12 women; age=20.81 ± 1.63 years, height=171.57 ± 11.44 cm, mass = 68.84 ± 11.93 kg) and 24 healthy participants serving as controls (7 men, 17 women; age=22.54 ± 2.92 years, height = 172.35 ± 10.85 cm, mass =69.15 ± 12.30 kg) were included in the final analyses. Control participants were matched to CAI patients on sex, age, and limb dominance. We assigned involved limbs, which corresponded with the involved limbs of the CAI patients, to control participants. Main Outcome Measure(s): Spinal reflexive excitability was assessed via the Hoffmann reflex and normalized to a maximal muscle response. Corticospinal excitability was assessed using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Active motor threshold (AMT) was defined as the lowest transcranial magnetic stimulation intensity required to elicit motor-evoked potentials equal to or greater than 100 lV in 5 of 10 consecutive stimuli. We obtained motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) at percentages ranging from 100% to 140% of AMT. Results: Fibularis longus MEP amplitudes were greater in control participants than in CAI patients bilaterally at 100% AMT (control involved limb: 0.023 ± 0.031; CAI involved limb: 0.014 ± 0.008; control uninvolved limb: 0.021 ± 0.022; CAI uninvolved limb: 0.015 ± 0.007; F1,41 = 4.551, P =.04) and 105% AMT (control involved limb: 0.029 ± 0.026; CAI involved limb: 0.021 ± 0.009; control uninvolved limb: 0.034 ± 0.037; CAI uninvolved limb: 0.023 ± 0.013; F1,35 = 4.782, P =.04). We observed no differences in fibularis longus MEP amplitudes greater than 110% AMT and no differences in vastus medialis corticospinal excitability (P.05). We noted no differences in the Hoffmann reflex between groups for the vastus medialis (F1,37=0.103, P=.75) or the fibularis longus (F1,41 = 1.139, P =.29). Conclusions: Fibularis longus corticospinal excitability was greater in control participants than in CAI patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-853
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© by the National Athletic Trainers' Association, Inc.


  • Hoffmann reflex
  • Lateral ankle sprain
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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