Injuries are piling up! In week 2 of the NFL regular season alone, we saw a number of players go down including stars Saquon Barkley and Nick Bosa. How’s your fantasy team looking now? The majority of these injuries were sustained in the lower body including high ankle sprains, hamstring strains, and even more ACL blow outs! What’s the one common link connecting all of these injuries? The foot.
We Can’t Control Chaos
As a recovering ankle taper, I understand the ramifications of binding up a joint that is designed to absorb and distribute forces through the rest of the body. When we lock up these joints, in the form of restrictive, poorly designed cleats, orthotics, or white medical tape, we reduce the movement capacity of the 33 joints in the foot and ankle. Throw another tape job on top of the athletic shoe, and now we have Ferrari engines driving with wheel locks. It’s like trying to press the accelerator harder and harder with the parking brake on.
Well, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It must go somewhere. If the bones of the foot are restricted from flattening and spreading out within the restrictive shoe, they become limited in attenuating impact forces experienced in the game. These resultant forces will bleed into the next available joint or structure that may not be ready to handle such large stresses, like the space between the tibia and fibula (syndesmosis joint) implicated in high ankle sprains.
The Break in the Chain
The foot also generates torsional translation of energy, like wringing out a towel. These spiral pathways occur at the knee to dampen forces traveling to the hip. Once again, an overly restricted foot and ankle will inhibit these natural rotational patterns from being generated. We then see wholesale collapse of the foot and buckling of the knee, resulting in excessive strain, and often destruction, of the ACL when the athlete attempts to cut or change direction.
What about those annoying recurrent hamstring strains? A foot that is stuck in one position through the use of orthotics trying to control motion, will direct forces to one area of the foot, usually the outside edge near the 5thtoe. This is like never rotating your tires. One surface of your tire will continually take a beating, eventually leading to a blowout. This is what happens to your biceps femoris, the most common of the hamstring muscles (located on the outside area of your thigh). It is constantly being used, over and over again, to reduce or dampen forces as the athlete slows down to brace for impact or during an all-out sprint.
As you can see, this excessive rigidity imposed on the foot and ankle through unnecessary bracing or other attempts to control or limit the natural movement capabilities of the foot is going to lead to problems up the chain.
Master Your Movement: Fix Your Feet
So, what’s the solution? Obviously, we can’t have 250+ pound beasts running around on a field without shoes on (as much as I would personally love to see that happen). Victory loves preparation. The key is in providing these athletes with the strategies and the opportunity to improve the function of their feet off the field so they can do their job on the field.
Want to learn more? Check out my series on Foot Health linked below and try out the daily movement therapy program Iron Flex, barefoot of course 😉.
TRY IRON FLEX NOW: 7 Day Risk Free Trial
Are you an Iron Flex Athlete? How are you enjoying the program so far?
PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 379 – Foot Strength & Arthritic Big Toes w/ Dr. Zanis
PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 377 – Feet, Fascia, & Dr Emily Splichal
PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 389 – A Body Breakdown w/ Dr. Mike Martino
BLOG: Foot Health – Kinetic Chain by Matt Zanis
BLOG: Foot Health – Shoes Are The Devil! by Matt Zanis
EDU: ACL Injury Prevention – Power Athlete Academy
PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, OCS, ATC, CSCS Former baseball catcher and an avid outdoorsman. Worked with Division 1 basketball, football, and track and field at the University of Pittsburgh, along with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Cardinals organizations. Received a Bachelors in Athletic Training from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Duke University in 2014. Is board certified in Orthopedics and a Fellow through the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. Is a PT with the United States Olympic Committee and USA Shooting. Currently operates his performance therapy practice in Scottsdale, AZ with Dr. Tom Incledon of Causenta Wellness, and became a Power Athlete Block One Coach in September of 2017.
Dr. Zanis utilizes the Power Athlete Methodology to optimize performance, reduce injury risk, and rehab his clients and athletes through movement assessment, coaching, and individualized program design.
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