Athletes are exposed to various forms of injury during sporting activities. Some of these injuries bring a lot of harm to the affected individuals. As a result, in most cases, they terminate careers pre-maturely. Consequently, there needs to be proper understanding of the injuries athletes may receive during sporting activities and effective evaluation of the recovery and return program. Determining the most appropriate form of treatment for an athlete and the most effective resume time is crucial yet one of the most difficult decisions athletic trainers and medics come across. As a result, prior understanding of the healing principles of the injured tissues, mechanics, patho-anatomy and physiology is imperative for proficient treatment of injury (1). Current paper evaluates the importance of proprioceptive training and exercises on injury treatment and prevention on sportsmen. It also examines the benefits of using this approach in the treatment of injury on the affected individual.
Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense joint positions and movements. Due to this ability, human body is naturally able to determine the condition of his joints without having to physically look at them. In sporting activities, proprioception is crucial since athletes constantly use their joints and muscles. According to Andrews, athletes should constantly adhere to the requirements of proprioceptive training to enhance the performance of their joints, treat joint injuries and prevent future injuries they would most likely receive during sporting activities (2). The success of proprioceptive training is guaranteed by the proprioceptive system. The system is made up of receptor nerves that are positioned in every joint muscles and ligaments. These receptors sense stretch and tension along the joints and relay the information directly to the brain for processing. The brain then responds by causing muscles contraction, which results in muscle relaxation during movement. Through repetitive training and exercise, muscles get accustomed to this process, and thus it enhances the brain and nervous system coordination.
In the last two decades, proprioception has been termed as the most dexterous training and treatment method among the athletes. It is deemed to be an irreplaceable tool in rehabilitation of most muscle injuries. As a result, it is a widely used method of injury treatment. Bandy claims that close to 80 percent of sportsmen in different sporting activities receive injuries (3). Most of the injuries these sportsmen receive are related to joint dislocation, sprains and muscle stress. During the injury period, they are unable to participate in normal sporting activities, and thus they must undergo treatment. Proprioceptive treatment is the most widely utilized form of muscle injury rehabilitation. It mainly involves the use of ankle support and braces, cold therapy and icepacks, taping and strapping, protection and compression combined with body work-out (2). All of these methods are utilized to bring relief to the injured muscles and enhance better performance of joints by fostering balance.
Ankle sprain is the most common form of ankle injuries. It is conjoint in sporting activities and medical care centers. Close to 45 percent of sportsmen, in most cases footballers, experience this problem at least twice a year (5). It results in acute pain and absenteeism from work or athletic activities. It is caused by the physical restrictions brought about by ankle instability. However, proprioception exercise is an effective remedy for ankle sprains. It is strengthened by use of thermo skin foot and ankle stabilizers. Treatment is administered through a given time period for maximum efficiency in the treatment exercise. Chaitow argues that proficient results from this treatment method are easily achieved through monitored treatment and restricted movements (4). Control treatment through elastic wrapping and ankle tapes is used to administer fast treatment to sport injuries. The annual study on sporting injury treatment reported that ankle tapes are the most effective type of treatment for athletes (6).
Proprioceptive ankle treatment is not only a remedy to ankle joint injuries but also a preventive measure for future ankle injuries. Ankle tapings and stabilizers strengthen ankle joint ligaments and itis an effective preventive measure for similar injuries. Such method is deemed to cut advanced injuries likely to result from previous encounters by close to 30 percent. Compared to other treatment remedies, proprioception training and remedy exercises are considered a better option (7). Such form of ankle treatment is more resourceful as it gives the injury enough time for full recovery as well as offers maximum comfort to the affected individual. About 65 percent prefer proprioception treatment to surgery as it is less painful and gives the affected individual ample time for recovery (8). Consequently, it is more adroit to use proprioception training to other treatment methods since it is more beneficial to sportsmen in terms of a recovery period.
Further studies suggest that proprioception treatment through ankle brace is more cost effective than other treatment approach methods. Use of medication after surgery proved to be twice as much expensive as proprioception treatment. Consequently, proprioceptive treatment is more influential than other treatment methods and should be executed over other treatment methods. Huston believes that research should be made on some of the equipment used in proprioceptive training (9). Some of the braces and tapings are rather expensive and this limits some sportsmen from acquiring the necessary equipment, as most athletes are unwilling to spend much on the acquisition of the equipment. However, closely evaluating the results one is likely to get out of the use of this treatment method, proprioceptive treatment exercise proves to be more effective compared to other treatment methods regardless of the rather higher costs incurred on the acquisition of the equipment. It is more rational to use this treatment form for physiotherapy compared to other treatment approaches.
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Proprioception exercises also give provision for treatment of knee injuries. Knee injuries are pervasive in the sporting sector and they affect about 80 percent of athletes annually (11). In most instances, they result in acute pain that is similar to that caused by ankle sprains. However, they are more rigorous than ankle sprains and much more difficult to treat if proper measures are not taken in time. Knee injuries are known to result in the termination of more than 500,000 sporting careers (13). Consequently, effectual treatment of the problem is highly required to minimize the chances of career termination. Akin to ankle sprains, proprioception treatment of the knee is achieved through knee braces and tapings. Panagis believes that the use of ice and cold packs brings relief to the pain caused by the muscle anomaly. Ice and cold packs are used to minimize the pain caused by the tension of the knee muscles due to knee injury (14). They are considered a very effective proprioception measure to follow when the knee is injured.
Temperature regulatory treatments through the ice use is an effective way to treat knee injuries. Combination of temperature regulation and proprioception yields better results and faster relief to the affected individual. Use of temperature regulation practice combined with proprioception is more effective than sole treatment through the use of knee braces and tapering (16). Ice reduces pain due to the injury and it inhibits swelling on the knee sore. In case of joint dislocation on the knee, it comes in handy as it decreases the pain resulting from the tension of the knee ligaments. During the proprioceptive treatment process, ice is applied to the injury for ten or twenty minutes on the injury to relieve pain and reduce ligament tension (18). After application of ice or any cold pack that may include fast evaporating substances, the affected area is covered. Ice application is done almost thrice in a day. After it is done, proprioception exercises follow and they are more easily done since the pain and tension on the injured areas are significantly reduced.
Such proprioception treatment is well known for bringing relief to injury within a span of 48 to 72 hours. Ice or cold pack therapy also involves compression of the affected area with a bandage after ice pack application (21). It is mainly done in order to neutralize the swelling on the knee. The knee covering is not done too tightly as it may limit blood flow to the affected area. In addition, tight covering leads to spread of the swelling on the unaffected parts surrounding the area. Since the knee is completely covered, the sportsman’s degree of flexibility is limited as this may result in further injury. In proprioception physiotherapy process, the individual might be required to use crutches for movement. Alternatively, the athlete may walk with the guidance of another individual to reduce the risk of hurting the knee. Ice and cold pack treatment is rather effective as it enhances the proprioception exercise activities. It is also cost effective compared to other treatment methods and is known to bring relatively faster relief to an injured sportsman (19).
Taping and strapping are the most common types of injury treatment practices used in the proprioception treatment process. Not only is it a treatment method, but also an infection protection method for most athletes. According to statistics done by the football management body, FIFA, about 90 percent of football players participating in a match receive grass burns by the end of the match (18). Grass burns leave an opening on the skin and this exposes some delicate body tissues to pathogens present in the environment. During the proprioceptive training practices, these wounds need to be treated to prevent contamination during workouts. Exposure of the frail body tissues resulting from grass burns leads to mediocre performance sportsmen in the sports field (15). Nevertheless, proprioceptive exercise comes in handy after using this treatment method. It strengthens the affected muscles and this gives the joint strength to resume in the normal sporting activities.
After strapping of the injury, proprioceptive exercises enhance relaxation of the muscle ligaments. Since the exercises are mainly aimed at the restoration of body balance through workout activities, the sportsman is in a position to regain composure with ease. This is because most of the proprioception exercises have a direct effect on the spinal cord and nervous system thereby enhancing stability restoration. In addition, it enhances the strengthening of the sportsman injured joints and allows the athlete to recover much faster (16). Since this activity involves only exercising of the injured body parts, there are no side effects on the injured sportsman. Compared to medication that is administered after treatment process proprioceptive exercises have negligible effects on the affected sportsman. On the other hand, the use of drugs has side effects on sportsmen and they lengthen the recovery process as they induce weakness of the athlete. Exercises, such as free running, can be used to counter drug effects on an individual. Consequently, they hasten the recovery process.
After treatment, proprioception exercise enhances the stability and balance of a sportsman. According to Wendt, effectiveness of proprioception exercises has been under constant study and it has been determined that it has a positive impact on the stability and body balance of athletes (21). In addition, the effect on stability is used as a basis for obtaining higher strength. Arm workout after elbow injury treatment enhances the recovery process. People who do arm workout after elbow treatment have a higher resistance to future injury due to the rapid strengthening of the tissue. Owing to this fact, one can argue that proprioception exercise is a preventive measure of muscle sprains as it strengthens the body tissue. If, for instance, the injury was on the knee or the ankle, then it enhances balance and stability as it hastens the replacement of damaged tissue around the injured region and this leads to faster recovery of a sportsman (20). Consequently, proprioception exercises enhance body balance and stability. It is absolutely essential that this practice is used as a supplementary treatment method of injury.
More than 10,000 athletes suffer from waist injuries at least once a year (12). Waist injuries mainly result from movement of the muscles beyond the expected points. The results are acute pain and limited movements during turning. It does not allow a sportsman to effectively participate in an exercise due to the impulsive pain resulting from the injury. Nevertheless, proprioception exercises minimize the acute pain felt by an athlete in this process. It is achieved through relaxation exercise that relieves the nervous pain through massage or waist relieving exercises. It allows the sportsman to have a faster recovery more efficient than the use of drugs. It also strengthens the waist tissue to a point that they become more resistant to similar injury (21). In the same way the body can develop antibodies to counter the spread of disease causing micro-organisms, the body develops stronger tissue that offers more resistance to the effects of waist injury. As a result, the individual feels less effect in case of future waist injury.
Increased balance that likely results from proprioception exercises reduces the chances of sportsmen getting injured. This is for the reason that training practices increase their agility and this gives them an opportunity to steer clear from unnecessary body injuries. Proper exercising familiarizes the sportsman to reflexes that come in handy during sporting activities. Tenbrik reports that most athletes take part in proprioception exercises during training. As a result, for those who have perfect agility skills in training due to proprioception exercises risk of suffering from injuries in the field reduces (19). Nevertheless, sportsmen receive some of their injuries during training and most especially during proprioception exercises. Therefore, it negatively influences their career, but it has a positive impact on them as it exposes them to the injuries they are likely to encounter while in the field. Consequently, proprioception exercises have a positive effect on the possibility of sportsmen receiving injuries during sporting activities.
Proprioception exercises have a variety of benefits on an individual. They enhance stability and agility of an individual. Fitting to the repetitive exercises done during the practice, the individual is able to maintain balance. Balancing ability greatly reduces the chances of sportsmen to receive injuries in the field. As a result, athletes taking part in proprioception exercises have a smaller risk of getting fractures or sprains while in the field. In addition, proprioception exercises increase the athletes stamina. Strength and stamina are vital aspects in the injury healing process and composure regaining. Close to 90 percent of sportsmen taking part in field-activities have increased stability and stamina (12). Stability and body balance is essential for athletes since most of the injuries received in the field are caused by lack of balance.
Some injuries like ankle and knee sprains can be easily avoided if the sportsmen have better command of stability. As research shows, close to 40 percent of the injuries received during sporting activities are due to lack of balance of the sportsmen (15). Compared to the ancient periods in the 19th century before the discovery of proprioception exercises, the current age has embraced great reduction in the recovery time of joint injuries (12). It is greatly attributed to proprioception exercises that bring relaxation to muscle injuries thereby enhancing the recovery process. It is mainly because proprioception exercises have a positive impact on stability and body balance thereby enhancing the recovery process. Constant contraction and relaxation of muscles have a positive impact on injury healing implying that proprioception exercises result in injuries healing.
To conclude, proprioception exercises have a positive influence on sportsmen. It is a very persuasive practice in the treatment and prevention of injuries. It brings about relaxation of the muscles tension of and this hastens the recovery process of the injuries received during sporting activities. In addition, it also enhances an individual’s balance and stability and minimizes sportsmen’s chance of receiving injuries in the field due to increased agility. For effective treatment of injuries from proprioception exercises, proper treatment methods should be associated with the proprioceptive training. Some of the combinations like the use of braces and tapering enhance the recovery process. As a result, it is prudent to combine these treatment methods for better treatment results. Sportsmen should highly involve themselves in proprioception exercises, as it is a platform for better performance.