Lightning Fast Reflexes is Not just to Athletes
We wrote about proprioception a while back and how it gives us a sense of where our body parts are, relatively to each other. Besides helping us have the right posture, it is a key element that enables us to move around pain-free and accident free. Without it, we will won't be able to move about without falling down and twisting our ankles all the time. We generally don't think too much about our ability to move, walk about or even typing on the keyboard as we are doing now writing this article. It just happens.
In fact, if we had to think about it step-by-step, we would get swamped by the amount of instructions we need to give at precisely the right time. Thankfully, we don't have too. Our brain does it automatically for us. And this happens partly again due to proprioception. Your brain essentially senses the all the huge amount of changes that is happening and making autonomous decisions based on the information patterns it receives. Somewhat like cringing just before a crash. Your body prepares for the event autonomously. Not something you consciously do. If you had to think about it, it would likely be too late. "Hmm....should I brace myself now? Looks like I am gonna crash into that wall."
How is this relevant to injury prevention?
There are usually several reasons why we hurt ourselves in cases of back pain or ankle sprains. We simply over exceed our bodies limits. Stretching or strain a muscle a little too much or far in the case of back pain or rolling your ankle a bit too much in the case of ankle sprain. These things happens because we over do it and our muscles that support the back or ankle is simply not strong enough or doesn't have enough stamina to hold out. Scrambling around a basketball court for 10 minutes is fine but after an hour, your risk of hurting yourself increases. Hence the usual prescription to strengthen and develop these muscles.
But this is only half of the solution. Yes, we need stronger muscles and greater endurance. But like cringing before a crash, if it happens after the crash, it doesn't help. This is very proprioception comes in. Your body needs to know that it is in a critical situation and needs to react. Your muscles supporting the ankle needs to fire at the appropriate time and in the right sequence to hold up the ankle as you scramble all across the court. It needs to react very quickly and autonomously. This is where proprioception training comes in to complement strength-and-conditioning training.
For a start usually after an injury, you can start off with balance training. This typically involves you training to maintain your balance on some form of unstable or wobbly surface like a balance board, gym ball or even a bosu ball. This doesn't seem like a tough workout but remember that we are training your 'brain', not your ankle muscles.
Another type of proprioception training can be found in plyometric training. Like what is show here in this video
Plyometric training is typically used to developed explosive strength. But the exercises done in a rapid sequence and usually in an unstable-wobbly environment is useful in teaching your brain to cope with sudden changes.
So remember, strength and endurance is important in injury prevention but don't neglect your proprioceptive senses that tell your muscles what to do.