Balance training programs with foam pads and balance boards have been shown to reduce lower extremity injuries in athletes in several studies. Basketball players are particularly prone to ankle sprains. Researchers in Germany investigated 198 recreational basketball players in a randomized controlled trial using a multi-station proprioceptive exercise program. They published their results in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
The players were randomly assigned to an exercise group or a control group, and then stratified based on their performance level and gender. Players previously performing proprioceptive exercises or wearing tape or external braces were excluded from the study. Injuries were tracked during the basketball season. A subgroup of subjects was also tested for joint position sense and postural stability to investigate the exercise programs effects on neuromuscular performance.
The 18-week training program was designed and implemented by physiotherapists in Germany. 20 minutes of balance exercise were performed once a week with 6 stations that were repeated twice. The 6 exercises (download the protocol here) included elastic bands, balance boards, and foam mats.
After the basketball season, the exercise group had significantly less ankle injuries (7) than the control group (21). This corresponded to a 35% reduced risk of injury in the exercise group. In addition, the exercise group had significant improvements in balance and proprioception compared to the control group.
The authors concluded that a “specific multistation proprioceptive exercise program performed only once a week significantly reduce the frequency of ankle injuries” in basketball players. Furthermore, they suggested this simple exercise program “clearly showed the relatively low prevention effort that is necessary to avoid an ankle injury.”
REFERENCE: Eils E, Schröter R, Schröder M, Gerss J, Rosenbaum D. Multistation proprioceptive exercise program prevents ankle injuries in basketball. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Nov;42(11):2098-105.