As an Athlete, do you ever notice that your elbows straighten more than other athletes? Do you notice that your mobility is always good and others are jealous of you, even though you’re not 'hot boxing' it at the local yoga studio every day? Can you touch the floor easily, or bend your thumb more than normal, If you’re answer is yes to any of these, then you might be part of a special group of hypermobile athletes.
At our Sports Physiotherapy clinic in Richmond Melbourne. We're all seeing an increase in the amount of clients coming in with an issue derived from hypermobility.
Hypermobility is classified as joints that stretch further than normal. Everyone knows David, that guy back at school days who used to do the old party trick of popping his shoulder in and out of its socket for fun or disclocating his thumb. Well David I’m speaking to you here. Stop doing it. It's not cool.
Overall Hypermobility is seen clinically in more females than males. It’s an Issue for the upper body when we look at movements such as Strict press, push press, push jerk, The Olympic Lifts, Handstand Pushups, Ring Work and Pullups.
And this is only for hypermobility of the elbow and shoulder. Start looking at the knee and all of a sudden any transitions where the knee bends and straightens start coming into play. Ie anything moving the lower half of the body, squats, burpees, kettlebell swings, box jumps ect.
The Beigton Hypermobility Test
The Beigton test, is an easy way for you to quickly distinguish whether this may be an issue with your body.
1. Score one Point if you can bend and place your hands flat on the floor without bending your knees
2. Score one point for each elbow that will hyperextend
3. Score one point for each knee that will hyperextend
4. Score one point for each thumb that will touch the forearm when the wrist is bent
5. Score one point for each hand where the little finger can bend past 90degrees into extension
A score of more than 4/9 is a positive hypermobility score.
There can be varying reasons why certain athletes have hypermobility, all the way from Genetically, through to ligament laxity caused by the release of hormones. Ex gymnasts are also extremely prone to this issue, due to an increase in ligament demands at a young age causing joint laxity during the growth phase of the body.
So why is Hypermobility a Problem?
In the clinic, I believe over 50% of the female clients I’ve seen in the last 18 months, have had hypermobility disorder causing issues at, below or above the hypermobile joint. That’s even though hypermobility exists in only around 5% of the population.
What can be done?
It’s like we’ve said from Day one. Individuals need to be aware of their own body, the limitations they have, the differences they have from each other. Coaches need to have a sharp eye to back up their mouth. Anyone can tell someone to bash out a few more reps, add some more weight, or go again, there’s only 2 more minutes. It takes a Coach that cares about his profession and the athletes under his care, to observe for this issue and change the athletes training as appropriate.
What can the coach do? Simple, stop the athlete from going into that hyperextended position. Realise that the athlete’s finishing position is before they think (hypermobile athletes are also known to have slightly decreased proprioception of those joints) So if the individual is squatting, stop them at the top of the squat before they fully lock out and hinge through the knee, similarly for the elbow, if they are pressing out overhead, stop them at full extension, before they go that extra range.
Otherwise Muscles around the joint have to work harder to compensate for the lack of ligament stability at the joint. This results in an increased tendon load through insertion points and therefore the ability to develop tendonitis issues at a faster rate than others. As discussed, if the elbow is hypermobile, this may cause increased load through the elbow, or the shoulder/wrist as it works to compensate.
We also shouldn't encourage these athletes to stretch. On many occasions they will get tight in certain areas as these muscles tighten up to protect the body from going into potentially vulnerable positions. If we get them to stretch, we're just increasing their hypermobility and making them more vulnerable. These Athletes need Stability, not Mobility.
Sometimes in training and coaching. There’s issues with Athletes right in front of our eyes. We sometimes, jump to our regular fixes and forget to assess the situation for what it is. We forget to think about who it is in front of us, who they are, what gender they are, what age they are, whether they've been through pregnancy, their previous athletic or training experience.
Hypermobility is one issue that fits this category. It’s something I rarely see Coaches addressing or individual athletes addressing but it is one of the major causing factors of an epidemic of chronic injuries with our athletes.
Alex is the Founder of Evolutio which provides specialised Sports Physiotherapy treatment and advice for high level Sporting athletes, CrossFit athletes, Powerlifters and Olympic Lifters with a sensational warehouse clinic at 11/3 Bromham Place, Richmond 3121. Bookings can be made online to see a Physio Monday to Saturday.