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Proprioception

Bosu Ball© iStockPhotoBosu balls are great for improving proprioception.

Knee and ankle injuries are an inherent risk of playing tennis. But with proper training you can decrease your chance of falling victim to this scourge of the sport.  And if you do find yourself on the sidelines, there are steps that you can follow to get back on the court more quickly and safely.

Proprioception is unlikely to become the next buzz word in fitness training, but it’s an important consideration to help prevent injury and a key tool to help club and pro players alike recover from injury.

In simple terms, proprioception means to know where your limbs are in space. For instance, a good tennis player knows where his arm and racquet are in relation to an oncoming ball.  Lower-body proprioception is equally important for tennis players, particularly to guard against injuries to ankles and knees.

“By doing exercises to improve proprioception, recreational and club players will become better balanced and better positioned on the court. That will make a big difference to how well they play the game and decrease the likelihood that they will suffer a lower-body injury,” says Todd Ellenbecker, Director of Sports Medicine for the ATP.

Compeed

If you do suffer an ankle or knee injury, proprioception exercises can speed your recovery. “If you’ve had a knee or ankle injury, you will need to work hard to restore proprioception equal to your other side. Even when it doesn’t hurt any more to stand on the injured side, a player loses his ability to balance himself for up to six months or even a year,” Ellenbecker says. “If your body doesn’t know how to properly position the foot, it can set you up for repeat injuries.”

How To Improve Proprioception
Stand on a balance platform or a bosu ball (half of a physio ball with a flat platform). Stand on it either with the bottom down or the bottom up. You can do squats, play catch with a ball or anything that distracts you. All that will help improve your balance.

Standing on the rounded half of the bosu ball is more challenging. Begin by standing on two legs, then stand on one leg and do a squat, or keep your racquet in your hand and try to block some volleys with a partner.

Ellenbecker says that 4.5 players and below should be doing proprioception exercises to improve their game and to guard against injury. “Often they don’t set up properly for their shots,” he says. “This training can help them to better balance. The exercises are also good for your general conditioning. Standing on an unstable platform makes almost any exercise more productive by working a greater number of key muscles and the benefit to the tennis player is that they get more out of the exercise.”

Working on proprioception is a very important aspect of training that can both prevent injuries and enhance performance.  It is simple to do and something that rewards the players who train for it.
 

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