Purpose: Restricted ankle dorsiflexion can promote aberrant biomechanics associated with risk for knee injury during dynamic activities. Attentionally focused instructions have been used to improve high-risk knee biomechanics during landing tasks. Yet, it is unknown whether attentionally focused instruction can effectively improve landing patterns in the presence of a mechanical restriction on the ankle. Therefore, our purpose was to determine whether restricting ankle dorsiflexion by use of bracing mitigated the effects of attentional foci on landing biomechanics in healthy females.
Methods: We used a crossover design to investigate lower extremity biomechanics in 19 healthy females between the ages of 18-35 during a series of jump-landing tasks. Participants completed 6 blocks of 3 jump-landings on separate force platforms in a randomized order based on brace condition (brace, no brace) and mode of attentional foci (neutral, internal focus [IF], external focus [EF]). Attentionally focused instructions were provided immediately prior to 3 practice jump-landings, followed by 5 test jump-landings with self-controlled feedback only.
Results: Ankle bracing decreased peak dorsiflexion and sagittal range of motion (ROM) (mean difference: 5.7-5.8°), and peak inversion and frontal ROM (mean difference: 2.4-3.0°). However, hip flexion ROM (mean difference: 1.8°) increased compared to the no brace condition. Regardless of ankle bracing, EF instruction increased peak hip flexion (mean difference: 4.9°) and hip flexion range of motion (mean difference: 3.8-4.6°), while decreasing peak knee valgus (mean difference: 0.8-1.0°) and knee valgus moment (mean difference: 0.04 Nm/kg). Additionally, EF instruction increased peak hip abduction to a similar degree when braced (mean difference: 3.6-4.0°) and not braced (mean difference: 2.1-2.5°). Lastly, EF instruction increased hip abduction ROM only when braced (mean difference: 2.3-2.4°), but decreased peak knee valgus power only when not braced (mean difference: 0.18 W/kg).
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that mechanically restricting ankle dorsiflexion does not mitigate the ability of EF instruction to enhance jump-landing performance by means of improving hip and knee biomechanics in healthy females. However, our findings suggest an improved ability to control the rate of knee valgus loading when not braced. Therefore, we conclude that EF instruction remains a viable clinical strategy to improve landing patterns in the presence of restricted ankle dorsiflexion, yet this approach may be ineffective to reduce the rate of knee joint loading.
Keywords: Bracing; Hip abduction; Knee valgus; Motor learning.
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