The Effects of Ice Massage to the Tibialis Anterior Muscle on Proprioception at the Ankle

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Masters of Science in Exercise and Sport Studies



Major Advisor

John W. McChesney


Ronald P. Pfeiffer


Chad Harris


Introduction: The use of ice as a therapeutic modality, known as cryotherapy, is wide spread in athletic training today. Ice has been shown to decrease muscle spindle activity, which is an important contributor to proprioception. Proprioception is the awareness of body position in space and is considered a significant contributor to motor performance. Experimentally, muscle spindle activity can be assessed through active Reproduction Joint Position Sense (RJPS). Active RJPS involves passively moving a subject’s involved extremity to a target position and then having them actively reproduce the position. The current literature suggests cryotherapy does not affect JPS. Previous studies regarding the effects of ice on JPS have failed to evaluate the individual contribution from the tibialis anterior muscle, the primary dorsiflexor of the ankle. The purpose of this experiment is to determine whether cryotherapy to the tibialis anterior muscle affects proprioception as measured by active joint repositioning. Specifically, this experiment will quantify the effects of fifteen minutes of ice massage to the tibialis anterior muscle on RJPS at the ankle. It is hypothesized that cryotherapy will decrease (worsen) proprioception, as measured by active RJPS, in the dorsiflexion plane.

Methods: This experiment was conducted using a pretest, posttest, control group design using 32 randomly selected subjects (16 males and 16 females) with no previous history of significant ankle pathology. Plantarflexion and dorsiflexion RJPS were determined using an ankle RJPS apparatus with the subject barefoot in the seated position. Treatment consisted of fifteen minutes of ice massage applied to the tibialis anterior muscle of the dominant leg. Ten total trials were recorded. The first five trials measured plantarflexion RJPS and the second five trials measured dorsiflexion RJPS. Constant error and absolute error values were determined from the difference between the target angle and the trial angle for each subject.

Results: The treatment group demonstrated a significant increase (worsening) in absolute error for ankle RJPS when compared to the control group for the dorsiflexion condition. There was no difference in constant error across conditions. Significant gender differences were noted in the control group for CEDFPOST and AEDFPOST. Additionally, CEPFPRE, CEDFPRE, CEDFPOST, and AEDFPOST were significantly different in the treatment group.

Conclusion: This study identified the effects of cryotherapy application on proprioception at the ankle. Specifically, it determined whether fifteen minutes of ice massage to the tibialis anterior muscle is detrimental to active RJPS at the ankle. Active dorsiflexion RJPS was affected by cryotherapy treatment to the tibialis anterior muscle as measured through absolute error. From this data, we can assume that disruption of the afferent input from the tibialis anterior occurred from ice massage. This suggests that the tibialis anterior mechanoreceptors make a significant contribution to active joint repositioning. Future research should be directed towards the affect of other modalities on active RJPS as well as weight bearing RJPS.

Files over 30MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."