Mobility vs Stability
Anyone who has spent any time around Ultimate knows the prevalence of ankle and knee injuries. I have even encountered people with both ankles and both knees in braces. There is a way to reduce the need of these, and it comes from a simple understanding of body mechanics.
I’m going to throw a list at you. Be patient, I will explain.
Starting at the bottom, you want your ankles to be flexible. Various ankle mobility exercises can be found here. These should be performed often, including before competition. These will loosen up the tendons around the ankle. The more mobility, the less likely there will be an injury. Tendons tear when they are inflexible, so any additional flexibility will aid in prevention.
Next, your knees should be as stable as possible. More often than not, those who have not experienced some type of major sprain or tear and regularly exercise should have stable knees. To improve stability, common exercises are as simple as standing on one leg, and if that is too easy, standing on a rolled up towel or some other uneven surface for as long as you can. You should feel the muscles in your leg flexing in order to maintain balance.
You also want your hips to be mobile. This not only aids in injury prevention, but will also help pivoting, changing direction, and especially breaking marks. I started doing these over the past year, and have seen great improvements. I personally make my team do them as warm-up before practice and tournaments, but I recommend doing them after too. There are also additional stretches that can be done to improve hip flexibility, including figure four, butterfly, and lunges.
Lastly (for now), your lower back should be stable. I frequently see people who complain about lower back pain stretching the area in various ways that often look painful. First thing to realize is that if your lower back hurts, it is often a hip problem, most likely to be the hip flexors tightening up. They can be stretched by doing lunges and it will often alleviate the problem. The best way to improve lower back stability is to do full body lifts, including squats, dead lift, and Romanian dead lift. I used to have lower back problems to the point that I could not sleep at night, and since adding these to my training back pain has almost disappeared.
It’s important to realize that the majority of injuries that occur in the “stable” joints are caused by lack of mobility in the “mobile” joints. If you have inflexible ankles and hips, odds are you will have knee and lower back problems. These occur because the knee tries to compensate for the inflexibility, and you end up with a tear in the ligaments. This is why total body mobility should be at the top of the list of goals for an athlete. Mobility exercises are, in my opinion, one of the single best ways to reduce injuries. Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll complete the list soon…