Study design: Controlled cohort repeated-measures experimental design.
Objectives: To determine if a neuromuscular training program (NMTP) focused on core stability and lower extremity strength would affect performance on the star excursion balance test (SEBT). We hypothesized that NMTP would improve SEBT performance in the experimental group and there would be no side-to-side differences in either group.
Background: The SEBT is a functional screening tool that is used to assess dynamic stability, monitor rehabilitation progress, assess deficits following an injury, and identify athletes at high risk for lower extremity injury. The SEBT requires lower extremity coordination, balance, flexibility, and strength.
Methods: Twenty uninjured female soccer players (13 experimental, 7 control) participated. Players trained together as a team, so group allocation was not randomized. The SEBT was administered prior to and following 8 weeks of NMTP in the experimental group and 8 weeks of no NMTP in the control group. A 3-way mixed-model ANOVA was used to determine the effect of group (experimental versus control), training (pretraining versus posttraining), and limb (right versus left).
Results: After participation in a NMTP, subjects demonstrated a significant improvement in the SEBT composite score (mean ± SD) on the right limb (pretraining, 96.4% ± 11.7%; posttraining, 104.6% ± 6.1%; P = .03) and the left limb (pretraining, 96.9% ± 10.1%; posttraining, 103.4% ± 8.0%; P = .04). The control group had no change on the SEBT composite score for the right (pretraining, 95.7% ± 5.2%; posttraining, 94.4% ± 5.2%; P = .15) or the left (97.4% ± 7.2%; 93.6% ± 5.0%; P = .09) limb. Further analysis identified significant improvement for the SEBT in the posterolateral direction on both the right (P = .008) and left (P = .040) limb and the posteromedial direction of the left limb (P = .028) in the experimental group.
Conclusion: Female soccer players demonstrated an improved performance on the SEBT after NMTP that focused on core stability and lower extremity strength.