Proprioception refers to your body’s internal awareness of the position of your limbs in space. It’s extremely important to motor task performance, and essential in sporting performance. It’s linked intrinsically to our ability to balance, to walk on uneven ground without falling, and to perform at a high level in all calibre of sports. Our awareness of our joints positions in space is continuously fed back to our central nervous system, through a series of feedback and feed forward loops in our nervous systems. Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles are responsible for these feed back and feed forward mechanisms. Chartered physiotherapists often assess their patient’s proprioception through simple balance tasks, or by asking patient’s to close their eyes and perform tasks.
Proprioception and balance re-training is critical, particularly after ankle injury. Our awareness of the position of our ankle in space is compromised following a bad ankle sprain. For this reason ankle injuries have a high reoccurrence rate. If your body isn’t aware of where your ankle is in space you can imagine that it’s quite easy to land with your full body weight down on the outside border of your foot, which will reinjure ankle ligaments.
A rehabilitation programme encompassing a proprioception re-training component is essential to the comprehensive rehabilitation of such injuries. Very often the exercises performed are quite simple, including single leg standing, wobble board practice, hopping and skipping. Balance outcome measures are often used to assess progress with a patient’s propriception. Progression with these outcome measures over the course of the rehabilitation programme is monitored. Failure to progress or attempting to return to competitive sport without adequate retraining of your balance is a recipe for re-injury.