Being hypermobile, or as it’s sometimes referred to as being “double-jointed”, has it’s pros as well as it’s cons. The pros? You get to impress your mates with party tricks such as bending your fingers to touch your forearms. The cons? It can leave you more vulnerable to injuries, especially in weight-bearing activities, such as running.
Being hypermobile isn’t something that you can develop through excessive stretching, you’re born with it and it affects 20-30 percent of us, so it’s not too uncommon. There’s a simple test that you can do on yourselves that will give you a good indication of whether or not you’re hypermobile and it’s called the Beighton test. Try these 5 movements and add up your score:
- 1 point if you can place the palms of your hands flat on the floor while keeping your legs straight
- 1 point for each elbow that can bend backwards
- 1 point for each thumb that touches the forearm when bent backwards
- 1 point for each little finger that bends backwards beyond 90 degrees
- 1 point for each knee that can bend backwards
If you score 4 or more, it’s likely (not definitely) that you’re hypermobile, and you should book in with a professional for an assessment.
How it affects runners
Runners with hypermobility are likely to have issues with several joints, because it’s the joints themselves that have the excessive movement in them, and this can cause a chain-reaction and pull other joints out of line in the body. It’s common for the issues to start with the ankle, as the increased joint movement can lead to overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot), which then impacts the muscles and fascia around the shins (shin splints), which can then have an impact on the knees and you can now see how the chain-reaction can work its way up the whole body.
Injuries can include IT Band Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (runner’s knee). The difference with these injuries in hypermobile runners compared with non-hypermobile runners is that they may respond slower to typical treatment plans. It’s also common for hypermobility to affect your proprioception and balance when running, so you’re more likely to have falls.
However, there’s no need to hang up the running shoes just because you’re hypermobile, it doesn’t mean that you’re in for a lifetime of injuries. Hypermobility isn’t something that can be cured, but it also isn’t something to be afraid of, it just means that you should be spending a little more time strength, control and balance work.
A simple and highly effective way to work on your balance is by standing on 1 leg with your eyes closed (without locking out your knee). You’ll find that you’re wobbly at first, but try and get 30 seconds of good balance on each leg and doing this 3 times a day you will soon find that you can stand for longer, wobble less and maintain your form. This will then transfer over to your running and help reduce the risk of injuries.
So if you are a hypermobile runner, don’t be scared and think that you need to stop running! It just means that you need to make a few small adjustments to your training and keeping a closer eye on yourself. Unfortunately there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment plan, so if you are looking for extra support and guidance on how you should be managing yourself as a hyper-mobile runner, book in to see a professional Sports Therapist and they will give you a full assessment and then be able to more accurately prescribe your treatment plan.