Balance in single-limb stance after surgically treated ankle fractures: a 14-month follow-up
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Background: The maintenance of postural control is fundamental for different types of physical activity. This can be measured by having subjects stand on one leg on a force plate. Many studies assessing standing balance have previously been carried out in patients with ankle ligament injuries but not in patients with ankle fractures. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether patients operated on because of an ankle fracture had impaired postural control compared to an uninjured age- and gender-matched control group. Methods: Fifty-four individuals (patients) operated on because of an ankle fracture were examined 14 months postoperatively. Muscle strength, ankle mobility, and single-limb stance on a force-platform were measured. Average speed of centre of pressure movements and number of movements exceeding 10 mm from the mean value of centre of pressure were registered in the frontal and sagittal planes on a force-platform. Fifty-four age- and gender-matched uninjured individuals (controls) were examined in the single-limb stance test only. The paired Student t-test was used for comparisons between patients' injured and uninjured legs and between side-matched legs within the controls. The independent Student t-test was used for comparisons between patients and controls. The Chi-square test, and when applicable, Fisher's exact test were used for comparisons between groups. Multiple logistic regression was performed to identify factors associated with belonging to the group unable to complete the single-limb stance test on the force-platform. Results: Fourteen of the 54 patients (26%) did not manage to complete the single-limb stance test on the force-platform, whereas all controls managed this (p < 0.001). Age over 45 years was the only factor significantly associated with not managing the test. When not adjusted for age, decreased strength in the ankle plantar flexors and dorsiflexors was significantly associated with not managing the test. In the 40 patients who managed to complete the single-limb stance test no differences were found between the results of patients' injured leg and the side-matched leg of the controls regarding average speed and the number of centre of pressure movements. Conclusion: One in four patients operated on because of an ankle fracture had impaired postural control compared to an age- and gender-matched control group. Age over 45 years and decreased strength in the ankle plantar flexors and dorsiflexors were found to be associated with decreased balance performance. Further, longitudinal studies are required to evaluate whether muscle and balance training in the rehabilitation phase may improve postural control.