Compression enhances lower-limb somatosensation in individuals with poor somatosensation, but impairs performance in individuals wth good somatosensation

James R. Broatch, Shona L. Halson, Derek Panchuk, David J. Bishop, Gordon Waddington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While research suggests that somatosensation contributes to elite athletic performance, little is known regarding the capacity of ergogenic aids (eg, compression) to enhance somatosensation. This study assessed the effects of compression socks on functional ankle somatosensory ability, and whether any effects depended on baseline somatosensation or ankle instability. Forty-two participants performed somatosensation testing using the active movement extent discrimination analysis (AMEDA) device, whereby the accuracy that participants could identify repeated ankle inversion movements of different extents were measured. Participants performed the AMEDA test on their “stabilizing” and “kicking” legs, with (compression; COMP) and without (barefoot control; CON) compression socks. AMEDA scores were also compared against ankle instability using the Cumberland Ankle Instability Tool (CAIT). There were no condition (P = .417) or testing-leg (P = .507) effects for mean AMEDA scores. When participants were ranked into tertiles based on barefoot AMEDA scores, COMP reduced ankle somatosensation in the high tertile (P ≤ .003) and increased ankle somatosensation in the low tertile (P = .023, stabilizing). Compression had no effect (P > .05) on AMEDA scores when participants were split into “low” and “high” CAIT groups. Wearing compression may amplify sensory input in a way that enhances somatosensation for individuals with poor somatosensation, but overloads input and impairs somatosensation of those with good somatosensation. Screening of barefoot ankle somatosensation may be used to identify individuals who might benefit from using compression to improve ankle somatosensation, such as individuals returning to weight-bearing activity following injury, and/or individuals with diminished somatosensation (eg, elderly).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-288
Number of pages9
JournalTranslational Sports Medicine
Volume4
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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