I recently attended the Sports Medicine Symposium at University of Wisconsin and always enjoy going to it since it covers a large scope of different sports injuries and topics. It’s also great to get different perspectives from other professionals in the sports medicine field. At the conference, several talks emphasized the importance of neuromuscular re-education following injury and I was very happy to hear that. My personal opinion is that this component of rehab is often times overlooked or not emphasized, yet it is crucial in preventing a recurrent injury. If you have ever gone to Physical Therapy for an ankle injury and you did not focus on any of the following, you may have been in the wrong place. Find a clinic that will encompass this component into your rehab in order to regain your stability.
Maybe some of you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say neuromuscular re-education. Essentially, it is proprioception and balance in order to retrain your stabilizing muscles and your proprioception system to provide improved stability. Whenever you have an injury (not just at the ankle), this system gets disrupted and needs to be retrained. Most people say to me, “well I have pretty good strength so I should be fine” but once I have them try some of the balance exercises, they can notice the difference between the injured and uninjured sides. Why is this so important? If you sprained your ankle playing softball, let it rest until it stopped hurting, then went back to playing softball, you are at risk for re-injury. Without proper training, the ankle is not as stable so next time you make a quick step onto the base but don’t quite get your foot all the way on, the ankle may roll again. If the proprioception is retrained, your body may be able to compensate in order to avoid rolling the ankle.
What are some things you can do at home for this? Try the following exercises:
1. Single Leg Balance: Stand on one foot and try to balance for 30 seconds without using your hands to hold on
2. Single Leg Ball Toss: Stand on one foot then have someone stand to the side of you and toss a medicine ball back and forth, rotating the trunk to catch and release the ball
3. Unstable Lunge: Place the injured foot on an air disc (or pillow) as the lead leg then perform lunges while balancing on the unstable surface
4. Hops: Begin on one foot and hop forward and backward over a line for 30 seconds then side to side over a line for 30 seconds. Make sure the foot is landing in good alignment each time for improved control over the movement
Try these exercises out at home and see what you think. Even if your ankle injury was a long time ago, can you notice a difference between sides? If you or a friend of yours injures an ankle and are in the Milwaukee, Hales Corners, Muskego, Franklin or surrounding areas, book an appointment with me to have it evaluated and get set up on a home exercise program. Check out our website for more information.