Reliability of three measures of ankle dorsiflexion range of motion

Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Jun;7(3):279-87.


Purpose/background: A variety of methods exist to measure ankle dorsiflexion range of motion (ROM). Few studies have examined the reliability of a novice rater. The purpose of this study was to determine the reliability of ankle ROM measurements using three different techniques in a novice rater.

Methods: Twenty healthy subjects (mean±SD, age=24±3 years, height=173.2±8.1 cm, mass=72.6±15.2 kg) participated in this study. Ankle dorsiflexion ROM measures were obtained in a weight-bearing lunge position using a standard goniometer, digital inclinometer, and a tape measure using the distance-to-wall technique. All measures were obtained three times per side, with 10 minutes of rest between the first and second set of measures. Intrarater reliability was determined using an intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC(2,3)) and associated 95% confidence intervals (CI). Standard error of measurement (SEM) and the minimal detectable change (MDC) for each measurement technique were also calculated.

Results: The within-session intrarater reliability (ICC(2,3)) estimates for each measure are as follows: tape measure (right 0.98, left 0.99), digital inclinometer (right 0.96; left 0.97), and goniometer (right 0.85; left 0.96). The SEM for the tape measure method ranged from 0.4-0.6 cm and the MDC was between 1.1-1.5 cm. The SEM for the inclinometer was between 1.3-1.4° and the MDC was 3.7-3.8°. The SEM for the goniometer ranged from 1.8-2.8° with an MDC of 5.0-7.7°.

Conclusions: The results indicate that reliable measures of weight-bearing ankle dorsiflexion ROM can be obtained from a novice rater. All three techniques had good reliability and low measurement error, with the distance-to-wall technique using a tape measure and inclinometer methods resulting in higher reliability coefficients (ICC(2,3)=0.96 to 0.99) and a lower SEM compared to the goniometer (ICC(2,3)=0.85 to 0.96).

Level of evidence: 2b.

Keywords: goniometry; inclinometer; talocrural joint.