Terry J. Ellapen, Samantha Ballington, Samantha Beukes, Christie Wolhuter, Johan H. Van Heerden
Background: Falls are a common occurrence among the elderly, which result in many health care practitioners prescribing prophylactic ankle bracing (an assistive device) to improve proprioception and reduce the chance of falling. The aim of this study was to compare proprioception in a cohort of elderly individuals when prophylactically braced or unbraced on the Biodex System 3.
Methods: Data were collected from 173 elderly individuals who resided at seven of the old age retirement institutions in the Highway area of Durban, South Africa. Information was obtained with voluntary informed consent. The participants completed a Fall Risk Questionnaire that categorized them into two groups: increased risk or poor risk for falling. Subsequently, they completed a dynamic proprioceptive test both with and without an ankle brace. The significance level was set at p ≤ 0.05.
Results: Forty-one elderly individuals were categorized as having an increased risk for falling (X2 p-value: 2.65e -12). The proprioceptive unbraced performance of the increased fall risk (IRF: 2.9 ± 0.48) and poor fall risk (PRF: 2.97 ± 0.48) groups did not significantly differ (p > 0.05). The IRF group’s unbraced (2.9 ± 0.48) and braced proprioceptive (2.8 ± 0.45) scores did not significantly differ (p > 0.05). Finally, the PRF group braced (2.99 ± 0.46) and unbraced proprioceptive (2.97 ± 0.48) scores did not significantly differ (p > 0.005). There was a weak correlation between the dynamic proprioception and Fall Risk Index (r = 0.04).
Conclusions: Ankle bracing did not enhance proprioception of the elderly.