BACKGROUND: Single limb balance training is an integral part of both the prevention and rehabilitation process of lower extremity injuries. Practitioners use instability devices to provide a progressive overload to an individual during single limb balance training sessions. Previous investigations have shown that when using instability devices differences may or may not exist in postural sway parameters during use depending on the specific devices being assessed. Thus, this investigation sought to examine differences between a commonly used foam pad and a novel instability device (block) in measures of postural sway. METHODS: 22 healthy individuals with no history of lower extremity injury and neurological disorders participated in this investigation (age 21.66 ± 0.74 years, height 167.07 ± 10.74 cm, body 67.76 ± 13.45 kg). Participants performed three conditions of single limb static balance on a force platform sampling at 120 Hz. Each condition contained three 20 second trials separated by thirty seconds. The mean center of pressure (CoP) values of the three trials in each condition were then compared using a within-subjects repeated measures analysis of variance. RESULTS: Statistically significant differences were seen in sway area between conditions (f(2,42) = 5.28, p = 0.009), with the control (9.64 ± 4.53 cm) being significantly lower than both the foam pad (13.05 cm ± 4.25 cm) and block (12.33 ± 3.37 cm). Statistically significant differences were seen in CoP path length between conditions (f(2,42) = 5.52, p = 0.007), with the control (67.51 ± 9.49 cm) being significantly lower than both the foam pad (74.36 cm ± 9.76 cm) and block (76.38 ± 14.84 cm). Maximal medial-lateral CoP displacements were significantly different between conditions (f(2,42) = 6.24, p = 0.004). Lower displacements were seen in the control (1.39 ± 0.20 cm), which was statistically different from both foam pad (1.59 ± 0.24 cm) and block (1.53 ± 0.25 cm). Maximal anterior-posterior CoP displacements were not significantly different between conditions (f(2,42) = 1.50, p = 0.23). CONCLUSIONS: This investigation provides supporting evidence that different instability devices may provide similar changes in postural sway parameters in comparison to control conditions. The novel block instability device used in this investigation may be used in a similar fashion to the traditional foam pad in both prevention and rehabilitation settings based on no differences being found between the two devices.

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