Friday, April 30, 2010

Proprioceptive training

I read this article and found it interesting:

Irregular and unpredictable surfaces often found on the trails can lead to ankle injury. Ankle instability can be prevented through the improvement of joint sensation, known as proprioception. Proprioception plays a key role in all activities, especially trail running, where the environment is open and running surfaces uneven. Current research suggests instability training has numerous benefits for your body and can significantly reduce the occurrence of ankle sprains.

Three methods and corresponding benefits of instability training are provided below and are sure to keep you continually active and less injury prone.

A recent study found that home-based proprioceptive training was significantly effective in preventing the recurrence of ankle sprains.

1. Training on uneven surfaces

Running on uneven surfaces increases the demand for stability. Your body meets this demand by using proprioception. The input for the body’s periphery that allows for this sensation to occur comes from tiny mechanoreceptors in muscles and ligaments, and receptors in the sole of the foot, which tell the body how fast and at what tension they are contracting or being stressed. Research has demonstrated that training these mechanoreceptors dynamically while trail running, running on sand, or barefoot on grass, will allow for more efficient sensory input and better performance.

2. Home-based proprioceptiptiptive training

A recent randomized study performed in Denmark and published in the British Medical Journal found that home-based proprioceptive training performed for twelve weeks was significantly effective in preventing the recurrence of ankle sprains. Increasing stability in joints such as your ankle can even refine your muscle reflex capabilities on uneven surfaces and decrease your chance of acute injury such as a joint sprain. This muscle reflex breakthrough, quantified by German biomechanists of the University of M√ľnster, along with previously stated findings, concludes home-based proprioceptive and stability training will have an impact in improving runners’ trail performance, as well as decreasing injury.

Home-based proprioceptive training exercises
Short Foot Exercise
While standing barefoot, pretend you are at the beach and attempt to “draw sand” under the arch of your foot. This technique is a specific way to increase the proprioceptive influence by stimulating the receptors on the soles of the feet. Repeat the movement six to ten times.

One-Legged Rocker Board Perch
Perform exercise statically (standing as still as possible) with rocker board positioned to sway side to side, or forwards to backwards. In both positions make sure the axis of board tilt is directly below your ankle joints, as this joint will support your entire body. Stand with one leg at a time on the board with your body upright, hips and knees very slightly bent (similar to skiing), and try not to look down for increased difficulty. Start with a goal of thirty seconds in a stable perch per leg, and practice each leg (even if one is more proficient), alternating side to side, three times per exercise session. Close eyes to increase the demand for stability.

BOSU-Ball Lunges
Start with your BOSU ball in a stable position against a wall. Place the heel of your forward foot touching the centre of the ball with its flat side facing down. Your forward and rear knees should reach but not exceed ninety degrees during the test repetition or during your set. Now, facing the ball, lunge forward with your lead leg, focusing on your hips and ankle joints and staying as stable as possible. Perform alternating, slow lunges, making sure you push down through your lead heel on the way up on each repetition. This is a dynamic (movement) exercise but is only effective if performed slowly, focusing on decreasing body sway, and increasing body control. Perform twelve lunges with each leg and three to four sets each session.

3. Closing eyes to add difficiculty and further adaptatiation

Closing your eyes to increase stability components in your home and gym training program was recently proven effective by Australian strength and conditioning specialists examining postural sway in athletes with functional ankle instability. The research suggests closing your eyes while performing static proprioceptive training will increase the difficulty of the movement and improve joint proprioception. This technique will add difficulty for elite athletes, as well as beginners who are progressing quickly. There are many inputs that help provide information on balance, such as the inner-ear equilibrium, proprioceptors, and vision. Removing one of these inputs will cause the others to work harder and adapt. Closing the eyes is a great way to force increased reliance on the sensation an individual is attempting to improve.

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