Health Blog

Killin’ It This Summer in the Sand

Summer in the Pacific Northwest brings warm weather, longer days, blue skies and sunshine, which makes it perfect weather to hit the beach for a game (or two, three, or four) of sand volleyball. For those who love the game, there almost isn’t anything better. Warm sand between the toes, ability to play 2s, 3s, 4s or 6s, no floor burns when diving, and maybe even a dip in the water after a day of playing. As you make the transition from court to sand, it is important to also make a transition in your off-court training to ensure an injury-free summer season.

One of the biggest differences between playing in the sand and playing on the court is your ability to maintain stability on the unstable surface of the sand. When playing on a court, the surface is stable and gives very direct feedback to your brain. Sand is much more variable and can change its surface at any given second. Your body’s ability to use its proprioception system becomes very important to prevent ankle injuries in the sand.

The medical definition of proprioception according to MedicineNet is “the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium.” In other words, your ability to send information from your foot/leg to your brain on what that limb is doing at any given moment. Our bodies are naturally equipped with our proprioceptive sensors; however, they can become damaged with repetitive ankle injuries (or an injury to any specific joint) and if not trained properly post-injury, can contribute to future injuries to that joint. Luckily, this is a system we CAN train through an exercise to improve our communication levels with our brain to help prevent future injuries.

Your proprioceptive system is a component of your balance system, so to train the system, we train balance. At its most basic level, you can start training your proprioceptive system through something as simple as a single leg stance. Finding this more difficult than you expected? Start standing on one leg more frequently throughout your day. I like to recommend to my patients to stand on one leg when washing their hands, doing the dishes, or even brushing your teeth (provided you can do this safely as to not fall and choke on your toothbrush!). As this starts to get easier, you can progress your single leg balance to more unstable surfaces. Throw a blanket, towel, or pillow under your foot to add an extra challenge. Belong to a gym or have a lot of fitness equipment at home? Grab a BOSU ball (that strange-looking half ball-usually black on one side and blue on the other) and start using it. Not only can you practice standing on one leg on either side of the ball, but you can also use it with exercises you are already performing to add an extra challenge. Use it in a single leg or double leg stance during your upper body free or cable weights to add an extra balance and core challenge. Don’t worry if it feels a little wobbly at first, it will get better the more you practice.

You can also use an agility ladder to give feedback on more rapid positional changes in your lower extremities. Not sure what patterns to run? A simple google search of agility ladder drills will give you lots of ideas to try. As long as you aren’t injured, there really isn’t a “wrong” pattern to use.

Still, feel like you are struggling or wishing you had a few more ideas on how to train your proprioceptive system before you hit the sand this summer? Check-in with your favorite MTI Physical Therapist (or come visit us if you’ve never been to our clinics) and we would love to help you learn how to improve your training techniques to optimize your performance and safety so you can crush it when you hit the sand this summer!

Maren Kludt , PT, DPT, FAAOMPT
Physical Therapist
MTI Physical Therapy – Kirkland

Maren is a physical therapist at our Kirkland clinic as well as a volleyball coach for Woodinville High School and Falcon Volleyball Club. Additionally, she works with high school athletes on developing strength and conditioning skills in the volleyball offseason. She is able to help assess the needs of all athletes (though she has a passion for working with volleyball players) thru her assessment skills and background in the sport. She has worked on a professional level with athletes at the Seattle AVP Sand Volleyball tournament for two summers and frequently sees all levels of volleyball players in the clinic. She enjoys helping her patients return to their passions without pain.

Tags: , , , , , ,