Study Design: Retrospective case-control study.
Objective:To examine the amount of dorsal first ray mobility in subjects having a history of stress fracture of the second or third metatarsal as compared to control subjects, and to test the influence of navicular drop, length of the first ray, and generalized joint laxity on the measure of dorsal mobility.
Background: Instability of the first ray may cause the lesser metatarsals to carry greater weight and contribute to the incidence of metatarsal stress fracture. Stability of the first ray is believed to be compromised when subtalar joint pronation continues into late stance, the first metatarsal is short, or an individual has generalized joint laxity. To date, no research has assessed the relationship of these etiological factors to the measure of first ray mobility.
Methods and Measures: Fifteen women athletes having a history of a second or third metatarsal stress fracture were matched by age, body mass, and sport activity to women athletes without fracture. Dorsal first ray mobility was quantified by a device using a standard load of 55 N. Change in vertical height of the navicular during stance was the measure of foot pronation. Relative length of the first ray navicular segment compared to the length of the second ray navicular segment was measured by caliper. Generalized joint laxity was evaluated using the Beighton 9-point scale. Within-day repeated measures assessed reliability. Differences between groups were determined by independent t test. Multiple polynomial regression analysis assessed the relationship between dorsal mobility and navicular drop, length of the first ray, and joint laxity.
Results: Interrater reliability coefficients ranged from 0.36 for metatarsal length to 0.71 for navicular drop. The intrarater reliability coefficient for dorsal first ray mobility was 0.93. Dorsal first ray mobility was not significantly different between the 2 groups. With regression analysis, the Beighton score was the only variable retained as a significant predictor of dorsal mobility (R 2=0.24). Conclusion: Results do not support the theory that describes the unstable first ray as a common cause of metatarsal stress fracture. In addition, this investigation found generalized joint laxity to be a significant predictor of dorsal first ray mobility.
J Orthop Phys Ther 2002;32(11):560–567.
Keywords: dorsal mobility, first metatarsal, generalized joint laxity