Kenneth Levitsky, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Garden State Orthopedic Associates in Fair Lawn, maintains that there are four primary ways to avoid sports injuries. Dr. Levitsky, who specializes in injuries to the foot and ankle, says that taping and bracing, the use of orthotics, stretching, and rehab and proprioceptive training are the best ways to prevent injury when engaging in weekend warrior or other sports activities.
1. TAPING AHD BRACING
“The most common risk factor for ankle sprain in sports is a history of previous sprain.” Dr. Levitsky says. “Taping of the ankle has been shown to prevent ankle sprains despite the fact that it loosens within 10 minutes and provides little or no support within 30 minutes.”
Levitsky notes that, even when the tape loosens, it can be a constant reminder of the previous injury and makes the athlete more conscious of the ankle or foot. Levitsky also points out that the use of high-top shoes alone is ineffective. “The sneakers may give the appearance of offering additional support, but cannot be counted on to do the job. Taping and bracing are highly effective for athletes with previous injuries.”
2. USING ORTHOTIC DEVICES
A second strategy for preventing injury to the foot and ankle is the use of orthotic devices. “There is positive evidence that orthodox devices diminish stress fractures and perhaps plantar fasciitis,” Levitsky says.
3. STRETCHING BEFORE AND AFTER PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Orthopedic doctors agree that even though there is no conclusive evidence that stretching prevents sports
and other injuries, stretching before physical activity can reduce the risk of injury. “Due to the paucity, heterogeneity and poor quality of the available studies, no definitive conclusions can be drawn as to the value of stretching for reducing the risk of exercise related injuries,” Levitsky says. “There is also no conclusive evidence that stretching diminishes the incidence of Achilles ruptures. Nonetheless, I maintain that stretching is an important element of any physical activity – prior to and following the activity.”
4. REHABILITATION AHD PROPRIOCEPTIVE TRAINING
Levitsky is enthusiastic about the research that has been conducted qualifying rehabilitation and proprioceptive training as strong regimens to prevent sports injuries. Proprioception is the sensory feedback that the body provides regarding the joints position in space and its movements. Joint tendons and ligaments have proprioceptors which are presumably impaired with a sprain/injury.
“Exercises on a wobble board enhance both postural control and ankle muscle strength,” Levitsky says. “This is a regular part of a rehabilitation regimen when the ankle has been injured. It helps restore strength and balance and really gives the body a better sense of itself in space.”
Levitsky says that conclusive medical studies have been conducted that document the effectiveness of proprioceptive training in the reduction and prevention of sports injuries.
“In one study of European handball players who used a wobble board as part of their training, there was an 80 percent decrease in the number of injuries caused by over-use and/ or trauma,” Levitsky says. ”Another study found soccer players with proprioceptive training had one-seventh the risk of ACL injuries. Athletes with a history of previous ankle sprains had a reduction in the rate of ankle injury during soccer practice and competition.”