Injuries are a significant setback for athletes, their parents, and the team. More importantly, injuries that require surgeries are costly. Unfortunately, what is not proven from a quantitative and qualitative standpoint raises the question; does the type of training playing on artificial turf, uneven grassy surfaces, cement, and slippery surfaces cause injuries or does the lack of efficient training principles taught (acceleration, deceleration and cutting mechanics) lead to a negative outcome.
Athletes and their trainers should implement a unique, balanced approach that creates a significant buoyancy effect that could aid in unilateral training and dynamic movements in sports. This type of training for the future (specifically for the younger athletes), which many have implemented, is to implement low impact, rehabilitation, and recovery methods of the ankle, foot, knee, hip, and shoulder coupled with progressive compound and explosive movements aiding the athlete for preparation for the highest levels of competition.
Meeting the multidimensional nature of sports today and increasing athletic ability, a therapeutic approach should meet the cognitive and practical sport-related stressors regarding the demands of one’s sport. Although not new, dune training can be a coping resource to meet the sport’s lower and upper body, conditioning, and recovery demands. Studies regarding dune training improve motor skills, grace, and balance, presenting a bounce back feedback, minimizing muscle pain, ligaments, and tendons, and aiding post-surgery rehabilitation.
Sanddune training has several additional benefits for all athletes, including:
- Prehab and rehab (Therapeutic Approaches), which can limit and prevent injuries;
- Targets coordination, balance, and mobility issues experienced by young and elite athletes regarding their training and level of play;
- Allows the athlete to work through instability issues;
- Increases myofascial release;
- Manipulates high and low intervals to mimic training on sand and incline intervals;
- Increases firing of the lower body from the toes through the entire posterior chain;
- Maximizes proper foot mechanics and ankle stability for support;
- Adds complexity to different exercises once the basic movements are mastered;
- Creates constant tension in the quads and hip;
- Encourages hamstring development and hip extension strength;
- Benefits the recovery process after injury and on active recovery days;
- Although not directly similar to sand, the use of this tool will help those athletes accelerate and cut with the proper foot planting, providing reactionary feedback to adverse circumstances with more precise foot planting and more explosiveness when running;
- Lessens the training impact through appropriate feedback to the brain sensory receptors;
- Great for plyometric exercises, keeping them low impact;
- Increasing resistance to running on sand requires more energy than running on standard surfaces; therefore, this apparatus, over time, will assist the athlete in improving quickness, building explosiveness, maximizing the demand for the training exercises, which translates to the field;
- Stabilizes joints in the ankles, knees, hips, lower back, and core to continually compensate and adjust during movement.
- Alleviates compressive forces on the joints during running, jumping, and walking via limiting overtraining;
- Develops the high-knee motion critical to the acceleration phase of sprinting, keeping positive shin angles–where the ankle is behind the knee–necessary for acceleration.
- Activation of the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps taking energy and stress away from those suffering from lower body injuries;
- Encourages barefoot training;
- Promotes in-season and off-season benefits;
- Offers a higher energy cost and lower impact training stimulus compared with traditional team sport training venues such as grass, which, if done consistently, will assist in training adaptations to standard surfaces;
- Limits muscle damage, muscle soreness, and decay in performance capacity relative to exercise intensity;
- Due to the fact many young athletes are playing multiple sports, more so elite athletes playing longer seasons. This tool can aid in resting tendons, where tendinopathy is common in consistent and higher-level competitions.
Please understand that this tool does not replace sand training, aquatics, or therapeutic practices. However, this tool can benefit and meet current sports performance needs if applied cautiously and carefully.