Ankle Instability Causes Forces to be Absorbed by the Ankle Instead of the Leg

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If you haven’t heard of the concept of ankle instability, that’s not good, as it’s the single biggest thing that may be frying your joints one step at a time. The ankle is a joint that’s held together by ligaments, like many joints. Unlike the other joints, the ankle takes the brunt of your body weight so the ligaments act as very strong duct tape to protect the joint and transfer those ground forces up to the knee, hip, and spine. What happens to those forces when those ligaments are lax (from one or more sprained ankles)? A recent study looked at the issue by measuring how forces were dissipated in a normal versus and unstable ankle. The volunteers jumped up and down on a force plate, a computerized joint tracking system was used to see where the forces went. In the ankle instability patients, instead of being transferred normally up the kinetic chain from the ankle to the knee, more of the forces stayed in the ankle. Why is this an issue? If the forces are absorbed in the unstable ankle, they overload the cartilage surfaces in the ankle joint leading to more ankle arthritis. The upshot? Instability is a joint killer that few medical professionals will identify. If you’ve sprained you ankle and now have arthritis, your ankle likely got that way by being unstable due to the stretched out ligaments. Fixing your arthritic ankle thus involves treating those loose ligaments as much as it does the bad joint. You can read more about these ankle instability issues and what to do about them in our practice’s e-book, Orthopedics 2.0. 

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