Effect of Training on Postural Control in Figure Skaters: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Neuromuscular Versus Basic Off-Ice Training Programs

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Abstract

Objectives:

To compare the effect of a neuromuscular training program and a basic exercise program on postural control in figure skaters.

Design:

Two groups; parallel design; prospective, randomized controlled trial.

Setting:

Postural control laboratory, arenas, September 2001 to December 2002.

Participants:

Forty-four young, healthy figure skaters (18 years ± 3 years).

Interventions:

Participants were randomly assigned to receive a neuromuscular training program (n = 22) or a basic exercise training program (n = 22). Both programs were completed 3 times per week for 4 weeks, and each session was supervised.

Main Outcome Measurements:

Participants completed baseline and postintervention measures of postural control on a force plate. Postural control was quantified as the center of pressure (CoP) path length during tests of single-limb standing balance that mimicked figure skating skills and challenged the postural control system to varying degrees. The primary outcome measure was the CoP path length observed during a landing jump test completed with eyes closed.

Results:

The post intervention CoP path lengths during the more challenging tests were significantly (P < 0.05) lower (indicating better postural control) for the neuromuscular trained group than for the basic exercise-trained group. For the landing jump test completed with eyes closed, the percent improvement in the neuromuscular trained group was significantly greater (mean = 21.0 ± 22.0%) than the basic exercise trained group (mean = −4.9 ± 24.9%; P < 0.05). The magnitude of improvement in the neuromuscular-trained group ranged from approximately 1% to 21%, depending on the specific postural control test used.

Conclusions:

The results suggest that off-ice neuromuscular training can significantly improve postural control in figure skaters, whereas basic exercise training does not.

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