Is there a correlation between your ability to balance and your risk of injury? The answer is, yes! We look at obtaining speed, agility, strength, quickness and all of the other attributes that make an athlete more attractive to college recruits but we have forgotten the lost art of the ability to create stability in the joints, this is called balance. Traditionally if you get injured on the lower limb and seek Physical Therapy, balance training is part of the rehabilitation process.(1) "A number of studies have found that poor balance ability is significantly related to an increased risk of ankle injuries in different activities. This relationship appears to be more common in males than females. Multifaceted intervention studies that have included balance training along with jumping, landing and agility exercises have resulted in a significant decrease in ankle or knee injuries in team handball, volleyball and recreational athletes." The thought that we can skip walking and go right into running seems pretty absurd, doesn't it? The same goes for developing youth athletes and reducing risk of common lower limb injuries. There are many different testing protocols to help Sports Performance Coaches test and measure the athletes ability to balance and assess risk. We may use The Romberg Test and The Star Excursion Test as a way to measure the athletes ability of balancing when we on board them into a new program. The Romberg Test is a way to measure the body's sense of positioning (proprioception) as well as motor patterns in a static position. The Start Execution Test is a dynamic balance test that measure strength and flexibility while moving your leg is different directions. This test also helps coaches identify lower limb instability including ankle stability. While these test are a valid way of measuring balance, we also like to include the LESS Scoring System. LESS (Landing Error Scoring System) test the jumping and landing abilities of the athlete and postural positioning. We will also modify the LESS with the Depth Drop as another way to show landing and stress in the ankle, knees and hips. Here is a video of some volleyball athletes going through the depth drop as part of a warm up.
What we end up with are two different abilities in completing the depth drop. Each athlete has been cued differently to land with better Mechanics. At the end of the day, there are ways to help prevent and prepare athletes for performance in the weight room and on the court or field.
References: 1: Hrysomallis C. Relationship between balance ability, training and sports injury risk.Sports Med. 2007;37(6):547-556. doi:10.2165/00007256-200737060-00007