Proprioception can be defined as the perception of the body’s position in space. It works with the combination of muscle and ligament receptors and the nervous system. It can be done consciously or not.
This dimension is particularly obvious when a person jumps, or does a balancing activity. The positional feedback system of the person must be very fast to make the necessary micro-adjustments and avoid losing balance. Information does not have time to go to the brain and return to the joints before one falls. This operation is therefore performed at the level of the spinal cord and locally at the level of the muscles and tendons.
This function is not only used in extreme cases like jumping or balancing activities. The simple act of walking or running involves this system which makes constant micro-adjustments taking into consideration surface variations or the differences in foot elevation. It is a very important system that is constantly solicited.
For example when an athlete gets an ankle injury, there is the physical consequence in the affected structures (for a sprain: tendons, ligaments, muscles, and, depending on the severity, possibly the bones). But sprains also affect the proprioception because the information receptors have been cut off. It is for this reason that your physiotherapist will develop your treatment plan with many objectives. This should work on the swelling, strength, and regeneration of the damaged tissues. But it should also work on restoring proprioception with exercises that involve balance once the joint is sufficiently restored.
It is often the case that the healing of joint structures is faster than the restoration of proprioception. Your physiotherapist will then recommend a prosthesis to provide additional support until your ankle is completely restored. Complete healing takes about a year and the athlete will be asked to perform balancing exercises in order to avoid another tear. In some cases, this prosthesis may be recommended even if proprioception is restored, especially if your sport involves frequent, sudden, changes of direction and is played on an uneven surface.
Do you have questions or comments about proprioception? Do not hesitate to consult our professionals.