Balance, as I've noted before, is a neglected skill for most recreational athletes but it is vitally important, especially as we get older. Proven to help prevent injuries to the knee and ankle some sort of balance training should be in the arsenal of every competitive athlete.
However, to quote a cliché, everyone is an athlete even if your event is lifting your 90 year old body out of a chair. Balance often declines in the elderly and leads to damaging falls.
We should all be working on our balance - even simple things like regularly standing on one leg when you comb your hair can help.
That is the preamble to this interesting article I saw which says that elite athletes - Olympic level soccer players - do have better balance skills than the rest of us.
Maybe one conclusion from this is that football playing and training improves balance (well the abstract suggests that these athletes may have better inherent balance, but other studies have shown benefits from training balance). Perhaps we cannot all play and train like Olympic athletes, but we can do something to reap the benefits.
Do elite athletes exhibit enhanced proprioceptive acuity, range and strength of knee rotation compared with non-athletes?
The aims of this study were to compare proprioception in knee rotation in Olympic-level soccer players (N=18) with non-athletes (N=18), to explore between-limb differences in soccer players, and examine correlations between proprioception and years of playing, function, physical measures and skill level. The knee rotatory kinaesthetic device was used to present stimuli of different magnitudes to determine proprioceptive acuity for internal and external active rotation, and to measure active and passive rotation range of motion (ROM). Knee rotation strength was measured using a dynamometer. Proprioceptive acuity of the athletes was significantly (P=0.004) better than that of the non-athletes. Athletes displayed significantly less passive ROM (P=0.001), higher isometric muscle strength (P=0.006) and greater hop for distance (P=0.001) than non-athletes. No significant between-limb differences were found in the athletes in any objective outcome measure. Internal rotation proprioceptive acuity was negatively correlated with coach-rated ball skill (r=−0.52) and positively correlated with internal rotation ROM (r=0.59). Our findings suggest that highly trained athletes possess enhanced proprioceptive acuity and muscle strength that may be inherent, or may develop as a result of long-term athletic training.