This is what we all say when we see an ankle sprain. They look so bad, sound even worse and feel like your foot is about to fall off. No doubt they are a scary thing. But the truth is many of them are preventable. No matter your age, your playing level or training age, we can help athletes of all ages and sports prevent them.
With the start of baseball season, we are bound to see the rate of injuries go up. Yes, things happen and accidents occur. But many of these accidents do not have to happen. Many of them can be avoided if we only trained the muscles and reactive systems required to prevent many of them. It almost seems too easy.
Let's start from the ground up: the ankles.
Baseball along with many other sports is played on two feet. It also involves running. For the most part, the players are running on a flat surface. But it never fails you will see an athlete round the bases and sprain an ankle. Why does this occur? I mean he's done it thousands of times before, right?
We have no problem standing flat on our feet. But when we get a little sideways and we are standing on the outside of our feet, our ankle wants to keep on rolling. That is inertia - an object will maintain its path of travel, or lack of motion, until acted upon by an outside force.
If we can get the nervous system to recognize that our ankle is about to roll and quickly react to correct it, then we can prevent it from rolling. Some of you may have had this happen; you're running and the ankle starts to roll but you catch it and although it scared you thinking you're about to sprain your ankle, but you caught it and it was nothing more than a scare.
To train this reactive ability, we need to train in what we call a proprioceptively enriched environment. Or simply a stability/balance challenged environment. In rehabilitation and sports performance we do this by having you stand on a single leg, or closing your eyes or placing you on an unstable surface such as an air disc, half a foam roll, or a balance pad.
This trains the muscles of your ankle to quickly recognize a potentially dangerous situation and react as opposed to having to think about it. The most convenient and beneficial time to work on balance and stability is during warm-ups. Balance on a single leg and reach in different directions, skip in different directions, shuffle and then change direction, run in different directions. These are all good things that will help prevent injury!!
The thing, using these tools for preventative care is almost identical to how we would use them in a rehabilitative setting. So wouldn't it be better to prevent the injury in the first place?
Be on the look out for the next article about knee injuries and how to prevent them! With the astronomical rise in youth knee injuries, you won't want to miss this!