Slam Dunking Starts at the Bottom
Can you jump higher when standing on the basketball court or on a rocking canoe? For most people, it is easier to jump higher when standing on firm ground. As a rule, the more stable the foundation, the higher you can jump. And that foundation includes your ankles.
The Kinetic Chain
The ankle is a part of a kinetic chain that forms from your foot, through your ankle, shin, thigh, and all the way to your hips. Power needs to be generated and transferred effectively through this chain, particularly in an explosive vertical jump, for maximum impact. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We generally tend to focus more on building the thigh’s explosive power and less on building the smaller muscles supporting the ankle. The muscle around the ankle is important, not so much for power generation, but for holding the ankle joint to ensure the best kinetic energy transfer. For higher jumps and more consistent play, we will take a look at injury prevention and management tips, and strengthening tips for the ankles.
Injury Prevention and Management
The first thing is not to get injured. Nothing causes performance deterioration faster than injury-related down-time. The ankle needs to be properly supported to withstand the rigors of the game. Ankle braces and supports unfortunately tend to be difficult to use as their thickness makes them uncomfortable to play in. One good option is to use sports tape. A rigid sports tape in a simple Figure-of-Eight pattern provides good support without excessively restricting movement. More complicated taping patterns may be too restrictive for play. And as tapes are quite thin, they are more comfortable to wear. Sports tape also play a role in proprioception, which is the awareness of movement derived from muscles, tendons, and joints. In this, sports tapes allow you to have a better sense of your muscle movement and exercise it accordingly during game time while preventing sprains in the process. It is possible to have strong muscles supporting the ankle and still get sprains if the muscles react too slowly to the changing environment like a fast moving basketball game; like a carfs air-bag going off after the crash.
If you do get an ankle sprain, apply the R.I.C.E.R principles – Rest, Ice and Compression Elevation and Referral. Don’t massage the area. Ice helps constricts the blood supply to minimizing swelling. Massage has the exact opposite effect to increasing blood supply. After which, your rehab specialist can start treatment to speed up recovery.
Muscles supporting the ankle must be able do to two things – provide enough support (strength) and react fast enough when needed (proprioception)
The best way to simulate proprioceptive retraining, as well as work on range of motion and strength, is with a wobble board.
Plyometrics is a form of “explosive-reactive” power training. It involves powerful muscular contractions in response to a rapid stretching of the involved musculature. Injury can result from the incorrect use of plyometrics. So make sure you seek the advice of a professional who is trained and experienced in this method of training before starting on a serious plyometrics routine. Some common routines that are useful for basketball include Quick Feet Drills, Cross Jump Drills and Multi-directional Jump Drills.
Quick Feet Drills
Quick feet drills using a rope ladder are a form of plyometric activity. Sideways movements are functional for most sports.
Progressing to multi-directional patterns using the rope ladder, moving from left to right while contacting each square with both feet, then back, from right to left continuing the sideways pattern. The thigh muscles work to control the movement. This sideways exercise puts a controlled load through the ligaments of the knees and ankles