Assessments Used by Athletic Trainers to Decide Return-to-Activity Readiness in Patients With an Ankle Sprain

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Journal of Athletic Training


Context: Athletic trainers (ATs) often care for patients with ankle sprains. Expert consensus has been established for rehabilitation-oriented assessments (ROASTs) that should be included in ankle-sprain evaluations. However, the methods ATs use to determine return-to-activity readiness after an ankle sprain are unknown. Objectives: To identify ATs’ methods for determining patients’ return-to-activity readiness after an ankle sprain and demographic characteristics of the ATs and their methods. Setting: Online survey. Design: Cross-sectional study. Patients or Other Participants: We recruited 10 000 clinically practicing ATs. A total of 676 accessed the survey, 574 submitted responses (85% completion rate), and 541 respondents met the inclusion criteria. Main Outcome Measure(s): We distributed an online survey to ATs that asked about their assessment of pain, swelling, range of motion, arthrokinematics, strength, balance, gait, functional capacity, physical activity level, and patient-reported outcomes in deciding return to activity. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize participant demographics and frequencies of the assessment measures used by ATs. Chi-square analysis was conducted to identify relationships between the demographics and assessment selection. Results: Pain, swelling, range of motion, strength, balance, gait, and functional capacity were assessed by 76.2% to 96.7% of ATs. Arthrokinematics, physical activity level, and patient-reported outcomes were assessed by 25.3% to 35.1% of participants. When selecting specific assessment methods, ATs often did not use recommended ROASTs. Athletic trainers with higher degrees, completion of more advanced educational programs, employment in nontraditional settings, more clinical experience, and familiarity with expert consensus recommendations were more likely to use ROASTs. Conclusions: Before approving return to activity for patients with ankle sprains, ATs did not use some recommended outcomes and assessment methods. Practice in nontraditional settings, more advanced degrees, more clinical experience, and familiarity with expert consensus guidelines appeared to facilitate the use of ROASTs.

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