We know that ankle mobility is important for preventing injuries as we discussed here. Appropriate mobility (specifically the up and down motions) at the ankle means that the knee doesn’t have to make up for the difference, hence avoiding excess strain on the knee and helping to avoid injury.
But, what if we have too much motion at the ankle? This can happen - especially for those who have previously sprained or rolled their ankle. When we sprain our ankle we strain or stretch the ligaments that protect our ankles, which leads to pain and swelling. But after the pain and swelling dissipate, we are left with another problem - poor proprioception!
But what is proprioception? Proprioception is our sense of the position of our body parts. If you close your eyes right now, it is your proprioceptive sense that lets you know whether your fingers are straight or bent without having to look at them. In terms of our joints, our proprioceptive ability comes from receptors found within the joint, the muscle, the ligaments and the skin.
So getting back to someone who has sprained their ankle - they have over-stretched and damaged the ligaments in the ankle, precisely where some of our stretch receptors are located. This means that person will have a poor ability to realize where their ankle is - so the next time they start to roll their ankle they’ll have a delayed reaction to this and are more likely to re-injure their ankle.
So how do we improve our proprioception? Just like running, we improve by doing it.
Here are some proprioceptive exercises that you can do to help improve your balance and reduce your risk on ankle injury: