The Importance of Ankle Mobility for Athletes – Stadium Performance Approved

Ankle mobility is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of athletic performance. Having adequate range of motion in the ankles allows athletes to move efficiently, absorb impact, and reduce injury risk. Tight or restricted ankles can hamper performance and lead to compensation patterns that place stress on other joints.

As the bridge between the foot and lower leg, the ankle must be mobile in multiple planes of motion. Athletes need sufficient dorsiflexion (toes moving toward the shin) and plantarflexion (pointing toes away from shin) to perform skills like squatting, jumping, and changing direction. An estimated 15 to 20 degrees of both dorsiflexion and plantarflexion is considered normal ankle range of motion for general health. However, most sports require more – some research suggests 30+ degrees of each may be ideal for high-level athletes.

Limited ankle mobility can negatively impact movement patterns in the ankles, knees, hips, and even back. Tight calves and restricted ankle joints prevent the body from optimally absorbing ground impact forces. This places more stress on joints, connective tissues, and skeletal structures higher up the chain. Over time, poor shock attenuation from immobile ankles may contribute to a variety of overuse injuries. Strengthening muscles helps, but does not fully compensate for reduced mobility.

Dedicated ankle mobility work is therefore critical for injury prevention and performance. Some effective methods to improve dorsiflexion and plantarflexion range include banded distractions, calf raises, and ankle mobilizations using a belt or strap. These activities target connective tissues in a dynamic way for lasting improvements in flexibility and function. Along with appropriate rest and recovery, a consistent ankle mobility program helps athletes maximize career longevity.

The ankles link foot to lower leg, making their mobility integral for safe and powerful movement. Athletes in all sports need to prioritize improving and maintaining ankle range of motion for injury prevention, longevity, and performance. Dorsiflexion and plantarflexion flexibility provides a strong foundation for movement efficiency in the ankles and up the kinetic chain.

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