A lack of ankle mobility can affect your movement whether walking, running or performing various agility manoeuvers on the field of play. Having excessive stiffness in the ankle can also affect you further up the kinetic chain causing knee, hip and back problems. It is estimated that in the UK 302, 000 new ankle sprains are seen every year in Hospital A&E departments.
Measuring the amount of mobility you have in the ankle joint can be very difficult and subjective. But there is a simple test you can use to test mobility at home. Why do we want to test ankle mobility? You may have a difference between left and right, or stiffness in both ankles that may be affecting your performance. We tend to want to go out and play our sport or just run – while talking to some fun runners the other day the consensus was that they wanted to improve their running times, when asked how this was going to be achieved it was through more running of course. The thought of finding a restriction of some sort that may be affecting their running gait and performance was not considered. Those of you who do run and have sprained an ankle will be interested to know that foot contact time is longer, meaning it would take you longer to run a race.
What sort of problems do we see with restricted ankle mobility or after a sprained ankle? Achilles tendon conditions, calf strains, lack of power in movement, lack of speed, foot conditions developing like plantar fasciitis, difficult to squat properly, reduced dynamic stability, balance, glute dysfunction and movement compensations. If we put the back right and miss the ankle stiffness the problem could very well re-occur. It is worth noting that the ankle stiffness may not be causing any pain just lack of movement.
So how do we test ankle mobility, place your big toes of both foot 10cm away from a wall, now take the left foot a step backwards and use this as support only. Now bend the right knee towards the wall and see if you can touch the wall with the knee without the heel coming up off the floor. If you cannot touch the wall move the foot a bit closer until you can and measure distance from the toe to wall. Repeat on the left leg and compare measurements. Being able to touch the knee to the wall with the big toe 9-10cm away is considered about normal. Remember the test is an indication of stiffness and anyone who is very tall or short may not get a correct measurement using this method.
Here is a video to show the test
Now that we have completed the test and found a restriction what can be done to restore movement. You may need to get further assessed from a sports therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath to get a rehab program. Stretching techniques might be used if tight calf muscles are the issue. Foam rollers are really good, to help gain mobility and ease tight muscles. Ankle mobility exercises can be done daily and massage can work really well. So for some a simple calf stretch will suffice for others a more extensive rehab program may be required.
Restoring range of motion in the ankle joint may cause stability issues so neuromuscular exercises will be needed like balance exercises and later hoping exercises to re gain functional movement. This may seem strange if you are a golfer but not if you are a runner as the feet relay a lot of information back on body position and any delay here could change movement mechanics through the swing.
We use Dynamic movement skills to help retrain movement patterning, co-ordination, body awareness, explosiveness, rhythm, which become our building blocks for sport movement.