In this article, I’m going to share what I’ve learnt over recent years in working with a number of hypermobile runners.
There are a number of factors to take into account when coaching athletes with different degrees of hypermobility syndrome.
Let me explain…
Hypermobility – Too Much of a Good Thing?
It’s fair to say that a certain degree of flexibility is important for any runner.
In fact, many of us runners struggle with issues that stem from a distinct lack of mobility and flexibility around key areas, such as the hips.
In both runners and triathletes, I find that lack of flexibility particularly becomes a problem around the hips and the ankles. I for one know this is something I need to work continuously on!
This lack of available motion can cause the body to compensate through other less desirable movements in order to find motion from elsewhere in the kinetic chain, in order to get through the running gait cycle.
The human body is fantastic at cheating and “finding a way” when it comes to movement. Often to its own detriment!
However, there is a significant population of athletes where the problem isn’t too little motion being available, but too much motion.
Hypermobile runners certainly face their own set of challenges!
Runners who display a degree of hypermobility, have a greater range of motion available around many of their joints, which they have to control effectively as they run.
The simple rule is that the more mobility a joint has, the more stability it requires.
These hypermobile runners present their own set of coaching considerations when it comes to training load and injury prevention.
Normal Flexibility versus Hypermobility
Some runners are more flexible than others, for sure. Just because you are more flexible than your training partners, this doesn’t necessarily suggest that you are clinically hypermobile.
Somewhere in the region of 4-15% of the population are thought to suffer from the genetically inherited Hypermobility Syndrome (HMS).
The video below demonstrates the tests used to determine an athlete’s Beighton Score.
Sports physio, Adam Meakins describes Hypermobility Syndrome nicely in a blog post (source) by stating:
It’s a syndrome that affects the connective tissue in our bodies, this is the stuff, the glue that holds our tissues and body’s together, it forms our ligaments, tendons, muscle, skin and most other things, there are different sub types and with hypermobility you have too much of a certain type and its disorganised in its structure, this is caused by a gene mutation and it is nothing that you can or could have prevented.
Due to this gene the connective tissue is very pliable or stretchy and so allows excessive movements of the body’s joints, this excessive movement and lack of control around a joint can then produce ‘arthralgia’ or joint pain believed to be from the shearing (side to side) forces that the joint experiences in day-to-day movements.
Challenges Faced By Hypermobile Athletes
I’m not going to get into the question of:
‘What form of exercise is best for those with Hypermobility Syndrome?’…
Needless to say, exercise is definitely the way forward compared to no exercise!
You will, of course, find that some forms of exercise are more or less stressful on the hypermobile body than others.
As this is a running blog, I’d like to focus more on what we as coaches and therapists can do to help hypermobile athletes become more resilient to the rigours of running.
Nine times out of ten, in my experience runners will run – hypermobile or otherwise.
‘Don’t run‘ is rarely an acceptable long-term solution!
Having coached a number of athletes diagnosed with various degrees of hypermobility syndrome, there are a number of common issues I’ve noticed.
The good news is that if their training is adapted to take into account their HMS, their ability to train and compete successfully is noticeably improved.
Take Home Messages
Athletes with hypermobility syndrome need to spend significant time training their body to control the extra motion they have available to them. With mobility must come strength through-range, neuromuscular control and stability.
Often hypermobile athletes require increased input and feedback to establish good movement patterns and feel the correct firing patterns.
As I was putting this post together, these tweets came in…
Ellis and Jeff together sum it up nicely 🙂
Last updated on June 16th, 2019.