Muscle activations during functional tasks in individuals with chronic ankle instability: a systematic review of electromyographical studies

L. Labanca, M. Mosca, M. Ghislieri, V. Agostini, M. Knaflitz, & M. G. Benedetti
Gait & Posture


It has been reported that individuals with chronic ankle instability (CAI) show motor control abnormalities. The study of muscle activations by means of surface electromyography (sEMG) plays a key role in understanding some of the features of movement abnormalities.

Research question

Do common sEMG activation abnormalities and strategies exists across different functional movements?


Literature review was conducted on PubMed, Web-of-Science and Cochrane databases. Studies published between 2000 and 2020 that assessed muscle activations by means of sEMG during any type of functional task in individuals with CAI, and used healthy individuals as controls, were included. Methodological quality was assessed using the modified Downs&Black checklist. Since the methodologies of different studies were heterogeneous, no meta-analysis was conducted.


A total of 63 articles investigating muscle activations during gait, running, responses to perturbations, landing and hopping, cutting and turning; single-limb stance, star excursion balance task, forward lunges, ball-kicking, y-balance test and single-limb squatting were considered. Individuals with CAI showed a delayed activation of the peroneus longus in response to sudden inversion perturbations, in transitions between double- and single-limb stance, and in landing on unstable surfaces. Apparently, while walking on ground there are no differences between CAI and controls, walking on a treadmill increases the variability of muscles activations, probably as a “safety strategy” to avoid ankle inversion. An abnormal activation of the tibialis anterior was observed during a number of tasks. Finally, hip/spine muscles were activated before ankle muscles in CAI compared to controls.


Though the methodology of the studies herein considered is heterogeneous, this review shows that the peroneal and tibialis anterior muscles have an abnormal activation in CAI individuals. These individuals also show a proximal muscle activation strategy during the performance of balance challenging tasks. Future studies should investigate whole-body muscle activation abnormalities in CAI individuals.

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