A number of studies have shown a relationship between ankle mobility and lower quarter injuries. In our Boulder and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics we often identify these impairments during our Physical Therapy examination. A loss of mobility in one area of the body can lead to overuse of an adjacent area. Examples include a loss of thoracic spine mobility in patients with neck or shoulder pain, as well as, a loss of ankle mobility in patients with knee pain.
As we have often discussed on the MEND blog, lower extremity flexibility is important for performance and reducing injury risk. A recent study in 2022 showed links between reduced weight-bearing ankle range of motion and aberrant movement in the biomechanical chain above the foot and ankle (1). Taylor et al showed that reduced dorsiflexion range of motion (the ability to move your knee forward over your ankle) is associated with a decrease in hip and knee flexion angles as well as increased quadriceps work when landing from a jump (1). They also found increased frontal plane (side to side) knee movement with landing in individuals with reduced ankle range (1). All of these identified factors have been correlated with higher rates of lower extremity injury.
So what do you do if you have stiff ankles yet enjoy running? You may decide to come see one of our PTs for an assessment. A few treatments of manual therapy, hands on work, and guided exercises can help restore ankle range of motion and in turn lower body mechanics.