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March 8, 2011
Absorb Your Landings to Avoid Injury
One of the problems of building better athletes is they create more force and land harder. It is like a fast car that must decelerate more or risk putting too much stress on the brakes. Unfortunately, joint cartilage and ligaments are a lot more fragile and tedious to repair and we’re all starting to see the effects. Whether it is the increased incidence of hip labral tears, tendonitis, or even ACL injuries, the body is taking a toll because it is learning how to drive faster. A big part of solving this problem lies in the ankle. Because every athlete should pursue some jumping in their training, several of our posts have talked about the force plate analysis of the vertical jump (see Sparta Point 10/28/09). However, we must not forget the importance of landing. A 2011 study out of Boston University examined the ankle’s role in landing. The research discusses the role of dorsiflexion, the upward movement of the foot, in decreasing the forces during touchdown. The ankle’s ability to pull the foot up during landing allows greater bending of the knees to absorb impact, as well as avoiding a more upright trunk posture. This vertical trunk position must be avoided because it increases ACL risk, as well the landing forces that the body must absorb. Unfortunately, it is common to have decreased range of motion at the ankle, as tighter calf and arch musculature, and even bone structure can hinder this joint’s flexibility. Probably your most efficient treatment approach is through our 3 tiers of neuromuscular reprogramming; strength, skill, and regeneration. For strength, exercises should involve a full range of motion, like squatting (see Sparta Point 4/21/10), to encourage active flexibility. Secondly, the skill of landing should always be addressed, in fact the coach of one of the top volleyball clubs in the country is adamant that all his players land on 2 legs evenly or they cannot play. Regeneration is the third aspect and should focus on the soft tissue work (see Sparta Point 1/19/11) that relieves lower leg muscular tightness of the arch, soleus, and gastrocnemius. We all want to drive faster, but no need to wear down those brakes by forgetting the skill of landing.
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March 8, 2011
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5 thoughts on “Absorb Your Landings to Avoid Injury”

  1. This is an interesting topic with unique solutions based on the specific sport task. If the landing is the end of the task, then a symmetric landing with plenty of center of mass displacement (to absorb energy evenly) makes sense. However often there is a secondary task after landing (like pivoting 135 deg and shuffling) where a symmetric landing with good form may not be optimal.

    I think improving ankle ROM as you mention makes sense as it is a way to absorb energy quickly (as opposed to larger hip eccentric excursions). Thoughts? Joe

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