Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Study Spotlight: The Importance of Ankle Dorsiflexion

We have talked many times about the importance of having full motion at all of your joints,  especially when it comes to squat form.  Restrictions in any joint including your ankles, knees, hips and even spine can cause you to overcompensate, adjust your form and set you up for acute injury or accumulate over time for chronic injury.

This study spotlight looks at the importance of ankle range of motion in cross-country skiers and how it affected their ability to squat with their hands on their hips and with hands overhead.  What they were looking at was how the motion of subjects ankle altered the flexion that occurred in their trunk.  

Ankle range of motion is important because over loading your trunk in flexion, especially with squat technique, can set you up for major problems with your back.  The possibility of loading to much in trunk flexion without proper core/pillar strength can result in lumbar disc injury, back spasms or other spinal injuries.

What They Found:
Researchers found that a lack of ankle range of motion in dorsiflexion (pulling your toes towards you) resulted in increased trunk flexion and angle index.  Angle index in this study refers to trunk flexion relative to shank angle or how much extra flexion is occurring specifically in the trunk compared to the whole shank.

Why Is It Important?
Ankle dorsiflexion motion isn't just important for cross country skiers and athletes in general but it is crucial for everyones basic movement skill.  Losing motion at your ankle changes everything in your gait and problems can develop daily as you walk around and eventually building up those cycles leads to the breakdown of tissue and injury. 

Any previous injury to your ankle can have a profound effect on your ankle motion but there are plenty of way to fix it (see below).  Selecting proper shoes as much as possible that do not raise your heel above your toes can help reduce problems with you ankle (high heels are death to you ankles, sorry ladies).  If you have pain up through you knee or have problems getting full motion into a squat look at your ankles first and often a couple degrees of improvement here have profound effects through the remainder of your system.

Here is a link to some ankle mobilizations and techniques you can use to help get your motion back and improve your function.

Fixing Your Ankle

Conradsson D. Ankle-joint mobility and standing squat posture in elite junior cross-coutntry skiers.  A pilot study.  J Sports med Phys Fitness. 2010 Jun; 50(2): 132-8.

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