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Guest Post By: Trey Potter
In my four years of high school athletics I think I probably rolled, twisted, and sprained my ankles at least a dozen times on each leg. I actually got to the point where I would roll my ankle and it wouldn’t even phase me because I’d done it so many times.
Fast forward a few years and I’m doing my internship with the football team at the university I attended helping them with their summer strength and conditioning. Despite the fact that we weren’t doing much agility work several of the players would wear their ankle braces or high top shoes while lifting and running. These players had previously injured their ankles but that had been close to a year ago. While they thought they were protecting themselves they were actually hindering their performance!
Most people would tell you that there are only 2-3 joints in the foot or that the ankle is really only for hinging to absorb and redirect force while walking, running, etc. This could not be further from the truth. In one foot/ankle alone there are 26 bones, 33 joints, and 100 muscles whose job is not only to allow you to walk and run but to give feedback to the rest of your body about the position of the foot/ankle in space, the terrain on which you are moving, and proper firing patterns of the rest of the muscles in the body to maintain movement and prevent injury. Think of your feet like and oddly developed pair of hands at the end of your legs. When reviewed anatomically they are both incredibly similar.
Dumb Feet and Poor Performance
How can a persons feet be dumb you ask? Your feet become “dumb” when they stop talking to the rest of the body. Because of the shoes we wear (thick soled, stiff) and because of injuries such as sprains and strains, the muscles in our feet and ankles slowly shut down and aren’t as active in the communication with the rest of the body and don’t fire properly to stabilize the foot. Arch supports, insoles, high tops, ankle braces, and prophylactic ankle taping (taping healthy ankles for as a fashion statement [extremely common in football players] or to prevent injury) are all very poor ideas because the “use it or lose it” principle is ALWAYS in play when dealing with the human body. When you constantly do the body’s job for it, in this case the stabilization of the ankle, you slowly lose the ability of that joint to do it on its own. To prevent this there are some incredibly simple steps to follow to get the ankles back functioning properly either after you have been injured or to even prevent injury.
If you are post injury you can start this as soon as you can walk without pain in the ankle. If you aren’t injured throw these in when you have time. You can use an old couch cushion or sometimes you can buy blocks of foam fairly cheap as well. Once you have your foam the next step is to kick off the shoes, step onto the foam and start marching in place! The real benefit of this exercise is that it not only wakes up the muscles of your feet and calves, it’s also great for your knees and hips as well! When you step down into the expanded foam and it collapses under your foot, your foot has to monitor the surface it’s on as well as keep the ankle stabilized when it does reach the ground because the compressed foam creates an unstable surface. Start with a couple rounds of 1 minute of marching and work up to 5-10 minutes of continuous marching.
For this you’ll need a foam roller, monster stick, and/or rolling pin. What you are going to do here is work over all sides of your calves and the bottoms of your feet to break up soft tissue adhesions that are limiting strength and mobility as well as loosed up the joints of the feet. If you ever hit a spot what really hurts when you go over it, suck it up and really work on that spot. The pain means there is a severely restricted spot.
If you have a pair of Nike Free’s or Vibram 5 Fingers then stick with those for your training. If not then check and see it your coaches or the facility you train at will allow you to lift barefoot. Training in the Free’s, Vibrams, or barefoot trains the stabilizers to support not just your own bodyweight but also to support the joint while producing maximal force. Running and jumping produce several times the athletes bodyweight in force so it’s important that the stabilizing muscles can handle it.
If you can’t lift barefoot then get out to a local park where you can jog and walk barefoot. 20-30 minutes of simply being out moving while barefoot will go a long ways to developing rock solid ankle strength.
*Disclaimer: Always be aware of the conditions of the surface you’re training on if you are barefoot or in your socks. The floors may be slick which increases your chance of injury.
This is one of my favorites as far as ankle rehab and strength building goes. Keep the weights light and go for longer durations. Be sure to switch back and forth between forwards and backwards dragging to build strength in multiple directions. Aside from being a great exercise for the ankles, sled dragging builds strength throughout the entire posterior chain which is crucial for developing and explosive athlete.
If you are dragging in regular shoes you will still get the benefits of building your posterior chain, but it won’t do much if anything at all for your ankles an feet.
This can be done at night while watching TV or any other spare time the athlete has. All they have to do is simply draw each letter of the alphabet with their toes on both feet. This will help improve range of motion as well as retrain the muscles of the lower leg to fire properly.
No matter what course of rehab or prehab you choose, you should always work to improve the bodies overall function, not do it’s job for it. Drop the protective equipment after you can walk pain free and get those joints and muscles rebuilt as soon as possible.
Trey Potter is a graduate from Fort Hays State University with a Bachelors in Health Promotion and Wellness. He is currently studying to take the CSCS exam and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Nick Kosmider June 7, 2010 at 5:32 pm
The ASU men’s basketball team added two more players to its 2010-11 recruiting class over the weekend, putting the total of new faces coming into coach Herb Sendek’s program next season at seven.
Kyle Cain, a 6-foot-7 forward from New Hampton (N.H.) Prep, and Carrick Felix, a 6-foot-6 junior college transfer from Idaho, have committed to the Sun Devils.
The additions are key for Sendek, who had four players transfer — Demetrius Walker, Brandon Thompson, Taylor Rhode and Victor Rudd — following ASU’s 22-win season that ended in a disappointing loss to Jacksonville at the buzzer in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The New Orleans Hornets have interviewed Lawrence Frank a featured speaker at the upcoming New England Coaches Clinic :: Presented by adidas.
By Brett Martel, AP Sports Writer NEW ORLEANS — Former NBA head coach Lawrence Frank and Portland assistant Monty Williams met on Tuesday with the New Orleans Hornets about the club’s vacant head coaching position as the list of candidates interviewed for the job grew to seven. The interviews came amid a backdrop of questions over whether Hornets founder George Shinn and Louisiana businessman Gary Chouest were getting bogged down in the details of their agreement to transfer ownership of the team to Chouest. Ready the full story…