Ankle sprains are extremely common. However, very little is known about the variables that predispose individuals to these injuries. The purpose of this study was to examine prospectively intrinsic risk factors for inversion sprains in a young physically active female population. One hundred and fifty-nine female physical education students were evaluated for several possible intrinsic risk factors for inversion sprains at the beginning of their academic study. The evaluated intrinsic risk factors included anthropometrical and physical characteristics, ankle joint position sense, isokinetic ankle muscle strength, lower leg alignment characteristics, postural control and muscle reaction time during a sudden inversion perturbation. All sports injuries were registered during 1-3 years and exposure to sport was recorded (mean: 15.33+/-4.33 h a week). Thirty-two (20%) of the 159 females sprained their ankle. The number of ankle sprains per 1000 h of sports exposure was 0.75. The Cox regression analysis revealed that females with less accurate passive joint inversion position sense [hazard ratio (HR): 1.08, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02-1.14 for absolute error at 15 degrees inversion], a higher extension range of motion at the first metatarsophalangeal joint (HR: 1.03, 95% CI: 1.00-1.06) and less coordination of postural control (HR: 0.96, 95% CI: 0.93-1.00 for endpoint excursion; HR: 0.94, 95% CI: 0.89-0.99 for maximal endpoint excursion) are at greater risk of an ankle sprain. The findings of this study suggest that effective prevention and conservative rehabilitation of ankle inversion sprains should include attention to these variables.