Predicting chronic ankle disability


This project consists of a series of studies to identify mechanisms of ongoing symptoms and disability after ankle injury, to design and test treatments to prevent ongoing symptoms, and prevention strategies to prevent injury occurrence.


Professor Kathryn Refshauge, Dr Claire Hiller

Research Location

Clinical and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Group

Program Type



Ankle osteoarthritis (OA) is perceived by sufferers to be as disabling as serious diseases such as heart or kidney disease. However, the only treatment with any effectiveness is surgery, which is invasive, is often unsuccessful and carries risks of adverse side-effects. Therefore prevention of ankle OA is critical. One of the most common causes of ankle OA is thought to be repeated trauma from ankle instability and repeated sprain. The first sprain is likely to initiate a cascade of events leading to chronic instability, re-injury, disability and ultimately OA of the ankle. The problem is that we cannot predict who will develop chronic disability from the first injury, although this knowledge is fundamental to prevention of the injury-OA cascade. We also do not know what impairments are caused by the initial injury, and also therefore cannot design effective treatment and prevention programs. The projects in this series include:

  1. Identification of the predictors of poor prognosis following the initial sprain
  2. Design and testing of effective treatments
  3. Design and testing of prevention strategies.
The outcomes measured include physiological, neurophysiological and biomechanical variables, functional outcomes and clinical outcomes that are relevant to patients. Interested students could include those with experience in the following: exercise science, neuroscience, engineering, physiotherapy, and medicine.The Foot and Ankle Research group is a multi-disciplinary research team that is part of the Clinical and Rehabilitation Faculty Research Group. The group is conducting a series of research projects available to postgraduate students interested in understanding musculoskeletal injury. The particular focus of these studies is the assessment and treatment of ankle injuries, the underlying physiology and/or biomechanics of associated problems, and the prevention of ongoing disability.

Additional Information

Possible PhD Topics:

  • Identifying physiological deficits following the first sprain that are predictive of poor prognosis
  • Identifying clinical tests that can be used to predict poor prognosis following the first sprain 
  • Discovering the physiological, psychological and social impact of chronic ankle disability 
  • Investigating the effect of novel interventions on preventing re-sprain 
  • Characterising subsets of ankle sprainers

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Sports injury, Rehabilitation, Physiotherapy, Ankle sprain, Functional ankle instability, Neuromuscular control, Motor control, Musculoskeletal, Disability, Counselling & patient support, Movement disorders, Human body, Movement, Professional practice

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 75

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