• Chris Hall

Ankles - How they Impact on the Golfer

Poor ankle mobility is the propagator of many movement issues

During the process of assessment we have found a significant number of issues related to ankle and foot strength, mobility and proprioceptive signaling. With this in mind a more in depth look at the movement issues is required to understand the significance of ankle performance and its influences on the total body movement.

By considering stability and strength of human performance while accelerating a weight to 100mph we need to look at the base line strength in terms of structural competence as well as range of movement.

Without the ground we hold limited ability to deliver force, albeit the final acceleration of the club doesn't require a grounding, but the transference of momentum through the early phases of power creation defiantly does.

The question remains as to what extent should this be emphasized throughout training and conditioning programs?

This is a simply answered. Ankle and foot strength sit at the heart of power delivery. Force and acceleration require a movement of intensity in order to produce required resulting ball speeds. Delivering this power with consistency is essential for the player to develop a skill level that is transferable to the golf course through a variety of platforms.

As gravity pulls the player into a numerous combinations of lies so the ankle is asked to support the increases loading approaching impact. At its peak, weights considerably above body weight are forced in 3 dimensions into the joint which is instantly transferred through the coordination chains into the club and finally the ball.

The main issue here is the 3 dimensional loading. Training such moves requires more than the classic bounding, depth jumps and box jumps. If the ankle is compromised in either range of motion or strength throughout the movement then a loss of balance will be triggered or, a deceleration resulting in a restricted energy transference.

Ankle efficiency has more implications than just golf performance. The gait requires the optimization of the Achilles tendon in order to produce an efficient locomotion. optimizing the Soleus is essential for driving the blood from the lower extremities back to the heart and avoiding blood pooling. Foot strength stabilize the arches, a crucial ingredient for dealing with gravity and maintaining a structure that allows 3 dimensional movement patterns. Even walking up a modest incline will be a challenge if muscular activity is being restricted by poor foot mechanics.

Knee, hip and spine issues can all be tracked down to ankle restrictions. For the golfer this continues throughout the chain in to the shoulders. Unstable shoulders are easily linked to unstable ankles through poor athletic posture and an unstable pelvis. The intrinsic stabilization of the spine is disconnected as the knees overload and glutes are inhibited developing spinal kyphosis. Combine this with a sedentary life style and you have created an environment for poor movement and possible injury.

Golf swing movements of all types look to accumulate power into the moment of impact through force and acceleration. Task completion is a high priority and can be at all costs, therefore a lack of mobility at the ankles is likely to transfer to the next joints, the knees. By its nature the knees have a specific ROM and stability factors which are an essential component of the golf swing and athletic power. Compromising of this can often, but not solely, be related to poor ankle mechanics and foot strength.

Considering these implications, ankle development should be a high priority irrespective of the type of activity engaged. There is know doubt that the same range is not required for every swing type and a more body shift motion requires a different stabilization mechanics compared to a lead leg stacking system, therefore the implications on a training programme would be very different.

Which ever the dominant motion in the swing the loading and unloading of hip torque requires a strong base of support and while the knee is commonly associated with this the ankle holds the key to success. Considering this, ankle testing is advised before engaging in a 3 dimensional training programme. It is essential to retain the balance in the feet and recover from eversion and inversion as well as planter and dorsi flexion motions. All movements that will be found during the play of golf as a variety of loads are expressed through irregular ground contact and foot placement.

Multi sports enthusiasts often ignore the complexity of ankle effectiveness while suffering the outcome of knee, hip and lower back issues as transferable loads are expressed vertically. By attending to the efficiency of the ankles in terms of ROM and strength the stabilization and effective mobilization limitations of motion and power transfer are not compromised at the first and early stages of movement.

For the golf enthusiast prolonged practice with poor ankle movement abilities will inevitably result in inconsistency as recovery and compensatory movements deliver forces throughout the body towards a negative ball contact.

We will be taking a more in depth look at swing types and ankle loads later in the year.