Sex-specific age associations of ankle proprioception test performance in older adults: results from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

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Objectives: this study was aimed to test the hypothesis that ankle proprioception assessed by custom-designed proprioception testing equipment changes with ageing in men and women.

Methods: ankle proprioception was assessed in 289 participants (131 women) of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA); the participants aged 51–95 years and were blinded during testing.

Results: the average minimum perceived ankle rotation was 1.11° (SE = 0.07) in women and 1.00° (SE = 0.06) in men, and it increased with ageing in both sexes (P < 0.001, for both). Ankle tracking performance, which is the ability to closely follow with the left ankle, a rotational movement induced on the right ankle by a torque motor, declines with ageing in both men and women (P = 0.018 and P = 0.011, respectively).

Conclusions: a simple, standardised method for assessing ankle proprioception was introduced in this study using a customized test instrument, software and test protocol. Age-associated reduction in ankle proprioception was confirmed from two subtests of threshold and tracking separately for women and men. Findings in this study prompt future studies to determine whether these age-associated differences in the threshold for passive motion detection and movement tracking are evident in longitudinal study and how these specific deficits in ankle proprioception are related to age-associated chronic conditions such as knee or hip osteoarthritis and type II diabetes and affect daily activities such as gait.

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