Strengthening exercises after a joint injury can help athletes move away from taping or bracing every day to provide support.
“My goal is to not have to tape an athlete daily,” said Mark Probasco, a Marshfield Clinic athletic trainer. “When taping lasts for long periods, there’s a larger issue at hand.”
The guidance of a coach or athletic trainer in strengthening exercises can help you retrain the joint to function properly during sport.
Take these 8 strengthening steps
After a joint injury, wait for swelling to go down and range of motion to return before beginning strengthening exercises.
Probasco recommends an 8-step strengthening series. Progress through these exercises at the guidance of your trainer or coach as your injury heals. Watch this video or download the exercise PDF.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is included in this strengthening series. Your coach or athletic trainer can choose to include additional PNF stretches as desired.
Why is PNF exercise important?
When a joint is injured, your body’s natural proprioception or balance can be damaged. PNF is meant to help you improve balance while the joint heals by retraining your body in mass movement patterns, which are everyday motions that naturally occur in diagonal or spiral patterns and cross the body’s midline.
“PNF helps us re-teach the body natural movements that we sometimes shy away from or ‘forget’ when a joint is injured,” Probasco said.
Mass movement patterns incorporate three components:
- Flexion and extension: Flexion decreases the angle of the joint and extension increases the angle.
- Adduction and abduction: Adduction means moving the joint toward the midline of the body while abduction means moving the joint away from the midline of the body. (This is the same as inversion and eversion.)
- Rotation: Rotating the joint.
Your athletic trainer or coach follows two diagonal repetitions during PNF to incorporate the above components and achieve mass movement patterns. Additionally, your coach or trainer provides resistance and auditory, touch and visual feedback through PNF diagonals.