Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group, LLC Blog

Up the Chain it Goes...

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sun, Apr 29, 2012 @ 15:04 PM

By Art Horne



derrick rose torn acl



With recent season ending ACL injuries to New York Knicks Iman Shumpert, and Chicago Bull’s point guard Derrick Rose coming on the same day, (not to mention Eric Maynor from the Thunder and Spanish Star Ricky Rubio earlier this season) discussion has arisen as to how these terrible injuries could have been avoided.  Although the possible contributing factors are endless, ranging from previous injury to simply fatigue, one area worth shedding more light on, especially in the case of young Rose, is the implication of the kinetic chain as a whole.

Let’s start at the ground and work our way up.

I think we’d all agree that the big toe is a big deal.   But how closely are we looking at this “pivotal” body-ground juncture?

In a study by Munuera et al, researchers found that “Hallux interphalangeal joint dorsiflexion was greater in feet with hallux limitus than in normal feet.  There was a strong inverse correlation between first metatarsophalangeal joint dorsiflexion and hallux interphalangeal joint dorsiflexion.” (Munuera et al, 2012). 

TRANSLATION: People with abnormally stiff or limited motion at the great toe had excessive motion at the joint just distal.

If you don’t have mobility where you need it, you’ll surely get it somewhere else.

Let’s move up the chain shall we?

In a study by Van Gheluwe and his group,  researchers looked at how a stiff or limited great toe joint changes the way we walk.  In their study, “two populations of 19 subjects each, one with hallux limitus and the other free of functional abnormalities, were asked to walk at their preferred speed while plantar foot pressures were recorded along with three-dimensional foot kinematics.  The presence of hallux limitus, structural or functional, caused peak plantar pressure under the hallux to build up significantly more and at a faster rate than under the first metatarsal head.  Additional discriminators for hallux limitus were peak dorsiflexion of the first metatarsophalangeal joint, time to this peak value, peak pressure ratios of the first metatarsal head and the more lateral metatarsal heads, and time to maximal pressure under the fourth and fifth metatarsal heads.  Finally, in approximately 20% of the subjects, with and without hallux limitus, midtarsal pronation occurred after heel lift, validating the claim that retrograde midtarsal pronation does occur.”

TRANSLATION: if you have a limited motion in your great toe, pressure changes will occur – increase pressure changes will cause pain over time (think blister on your foot).

And pain changes the way we move – period.

Let’s take a look at the ankle.

In an article  by Denegar et al, the authors outline the importance of regaining normal talocrural joint arthrokinematics following an ankle injury.   The authors note,

 “All of the athletes we studied had completed a rehabilitation program as directed by their physician under the supervision of a certified athletic trainer, and had returned to sports participation.  Furthermore, all had performed some form of heel-cord stretching. None, however, had received joint mobilization of the talocrural complex.  Despite the return to sports and evidence of restoration in dorsiflexion range of motion, there was restriction of posterior talar mobility in most of the injured ankles.  Posterior talar mobilization shortens the time required to restore dorsiflexion range and a normal gait.  Without proper talar mobilization, dorsiflexion range of motion may be restored through excessive stretching of the plantar flexors, excessive motion at surrounding joints, or forced to occur through an abnormal axis of rotation at the talocrural joint.” (pg. 172)

TRANSLATION: I repeat, Without proper talar mobilization, dorsiflexion range of motion may be restored through excessive stretching of the plantar flexors, excessive motion at surrounding joints, or forced to occur through an abnormal axis of rotation at the talocrural joint.” (pg. 172)

If you don’t have normal ankle motion, and specifically at the talus, your ankle motion (although appearing normal) is probably coming from other joints and/or in a combination with foot pronation.


Foot Pronation = Tibial Internal Rotation

Tibial Internal Rotation = Femoral Internal Rotation

Tibia and Femur Internal Rotation  =  Knee Valgus (or knee collapse)

Knee Valgus = BAD


But just because you have some extra motion doesn’t mean you’re doomed right?


But, excessive motion without the ability to control that motion certainly does.  So where does knee control come from? The Hip!

But hip strength, control, and neuromuscular timing is seldom appreciated, and in the case of the basketball athlete it is certainly poorly measured, especially after ankle injury.

In a study by Bullock-Saxton, researchers investigated muscle activation during hip extension after ankle sprain and showed a changes in timing of muscle activation in the ankle sprain grouped compared to the non-injured group.

 “the results highlight the importance of the clinician’s paying attention to function of muscles around the joints separated from the site of injury.  Significant delay of entry of the gluteus maximus muscle into the hip extension pattern is of special concern, as it has been proposed by Janda that the early activation of this muscle provides appropriate stability to the pelvis in such functional activities as gait.” (pg. 333)


In another study examining ipsilateral hip strength/weakness after the classic ankle sprain, researchers demonstrated that subjects with unilateral chronic ankle sprains had weaker hip abduction strength and less plantar flexion range of motion on the involved sides (Friel et al., 2006)

“Our findings of weaker hip abductors in the involved limb of people with chronic ankle sprains supports this view of a potential chronic loss of stability throughout the kinetic chain or compensations by the involved limb, thus contributing to repeat injury at the ankle.” (pg. 76)

“If the firing, recruitment, and strength of the hip abductor muscles in people with ankle sprains have been altered because of the distal injury, the frontal-plane stability normally supplied by this muscle is lacking, and the risk for repeat injury increases.  Weak hip abductors are unable to counteract the lateral sway, and an injury to the ankle may ensue.”

TRANSLATION: Ankle sprains cause neuromuscular changes up the chain and specifically in the hip.  If this weakness is not addressed after an ankle injury,” frontal-plane stability normally supplied by this muscle is lacking.” 


Lack of frontal-plane stability + Knee Valgus = Injury


Of course suggesting that the above points are exactly the reason for which Rose suffered his injury is certainly a stretch and not the intention of this post, nor is it to question the treatment that he or any other NBA player received prior to their devastating injury (for the record, the Chicago Bulls Sports Medicine and Strength Staff are regarded as one of the very best in the league).  What I am suggesting however is that examining athletes and patients with the use of advanced technology to determine a state of readiness to participate, and/or examine more closely changes in gait and neuromuscular firing is certainly worth pursuing, especially in light of the ever-rising salaries within professional sports.  A quick look is certainly worth the small investment.

One thing is for sure, ACL injury is not limited to teenage females or only seen on the soccer pitch.


Previous Posts:

The NBA Should Have Learned From The NFL - Injuries On The Rise

Did The NBA Lock-out Ultimately End Chauncey Billups' Career?


See lectures directly related to gait, injury prevention, and performance at the 2012 BSMPG Summer Seminar:

1. Dr. Bruce Williams: Hit the ground running: Appreciating the importance of foot strike in NBA injuries

2. Dr. Bruce Williams: Breakout Session: Restoring Gait with evidence based medicine

3. Art Horne and Dr. Pete Viteritti: Improving Health & Performance - Restoring ankle dorsiflexion utilizing a manual therapy approach

4. Dr. Tim Morgan: Biomechanics and Theories of Human Gait: Therpeutic and Training Considerations

5. Jose Fernandez: Advanced Player Monitoring for Injury Reduction



See the most advanced player monitoring equipment currently available at the 2012 BSMPG Summer Seminar:


 zeo affectiva  ithlete

BioSensics  Zflo insideTracker


Dartfish  freelap timing   Tekscanoptosource

Click me




Munuera PV, Trujillo P, Guiza L, Guiza I. Hallux Interphalangeal Joint Range of Motion in Feet with and Without Limited First Metatarsophalangeal Joint Dorsiflexion. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 102(1): 47-53, 2012.

Denegar, C., Hertel, J., Fonesca, J.  The Effect of Lateral Ankle Sprain on Dorsiflexion Range of Motion, Posterior Talar Glide, and Joint Laxity.  J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2002; 32(4):166-173.


Van Gheluwe B, Dananberg HJ, Hagman F, Vanstaen K. Effects of Hallux Limitus on Plantar Foot Pressure and Foot Kinematics During Walking. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 96(5): 428-436, 2006.

Bullock-Saxton, J. E., Janda, V., & Bullock, M. I. (1994) The Influence of Ankle Sprain Injury on Muscle
Activation during Hip Extension. Int. J. Sports Med. Vol. 15 No. 6, 330-334.

Friel, K., McLean, N., Myers, C., & Caceres, M. (2006). Ipsilateral Hip Abductor Weakness After Inversion
Ankle Sprain. Journal of Athletic Training. Vol. 41 No.1, 74-78

Smith RW, Reischl SF. Treatment of ankle sprains in young athletes. Am J Sports Med. 1986;14:465-471.

Topics: Art Horne, basketball performance, basketball training programs, BSMPG, athletic training conference, Charlie Weingroff, boston hockey conference, barefoot strength training, Andrea Hudy, Bruce Williams, Cal Dietz, Alan Grodin, Barefoot in Boston, Dr. DiMuro, Dan Boothby, Chris Powers, achilles pain, Dorsiflexion, ankle problems

Barefoot Invades Boston!

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Fri, Apr 13, 2012 @ 19:04 PM

Boston Marathon meet Barefoot in Boston


The Barefoot Running Symposium is presented by the New England Barefoot Runners. This symposium is available to the general public at no charge on a first come, first serve basis.

This FREE event occurs during (and is part of) the 1st Annual Boston Barefoot Running Festival. This event showcases well known international speakers who have been studying running biomechanics for years. It includes pioneers of the barefoot running movement who have written books, who have previously shared their experiences through speaking engagements and barefoot running workshops.

Additional speakers are well established barefoot runners with stories of how this change in running has taken them to higher levels.

Boston Public Library
Rabb Lecture Hall
700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02216

Saturday, April 14, 2012
1PM – 4PM


Click HERE to read more about this exciting event and the speakers that will be there including the leader in Barefoot research - Irene Davis!

Watch Irene Davis lecture in the video below as she describes the challenges with the traditional heel strike during running and how going with less on your feet might just be the answer to your injury woes.



Not sure if baring your sole is a good idea?  Read BAREFOOT IN BOSTON, and learn how the shoes on your feet are doing more harm than good.

barefoot in boston


Topics: Art Horne, boston marathon, Irene Davis, barefoot strength training, Barefoot in Boston, achilles pain, ankle problems, barefoot training

Limited Anke Dorsiflexion? Find a Ninja

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Thu, Oct 6, 2011 @ 07:10 AM



By Art Horne


ankle dorsiflexion


So often ankle dorsiflexion or should I say a lack thereof, is pointed at as the underlying culprit for a variety of movement impairments … and rightfully so. A lack of true talocrural motion can cause havoc up the chain involving itself in a variety of impairments including anterior tibial pain, patellofemoral pain and general low back pain to only name a few.

However, the actual limiting factor causing this lack of osteokinematic motion may be multi-factorial and if clinicians are hoping to address this limitation over the long haul with permanent change the exact location and tissue responsible for this restriction must be clearly identified and addressed with a specific intervention to match the specific tissue.

With regards to soft tissue restrictions there are only 6 possible structures that can limit this motion, and these are:

1. Soleus
2. Posterior Tibialis
3. Flexor Hallucis Longus
4. Flexor Digitorum Longus
5. Posterior Talofibular ligament
6. Posterior Tibiotalar Ligament

The gastrocnemieus, although probably the very first structure that comes to mind, does not limit true dorsiflexion in function (that is unless you participate in ski jumping or speed walking, and then you need to include this in your assessment), since the knee is almost always flexed when the ankle is asked to express dorsiflexion in function, such as walking, running, squatting, lunging, stepping, jumping and landing.


racewalking skijumping
Now that’s some dorsiflexion!


Remember, in order for your tibia to pass over your talus, and your talus to move between the tibia and the calcaneus we need to think of what pathology or dysfunction is not allowing the above mentioned tissues to lengthen.  More often than not, fibrotic adhesions within the muscles or fascial restrictions are to blame, with the filet mignon of tissue treatment choice being an Active Release Technique.  Although lesser cuts of treatment choices allow tissues to mobilize at times, rarely can a foam roller or tennis ball address a specific adhesion like a skilled clinician and the appropriate manual release technique.  That’s not to say one is wasting their time or shouldn’t employ the soft tissue mobilization techniques that they are allowed to use given their credentialing or state laws, but understanding when to refer to a specialist with a very specific skill set is the difference between a butter knife a ninja – both may get the job done but we all know which one we’d rather have on our side.




So how does one differentiate between these tissues?

Because the Soleus and Posterior Tibialis are the two usual suspects and responsible for the majority of problems when it comes to ankle dorsiflexion limitations, these two will usually require the majority of your focus both in evaluation palpation and treatment.


posterior tibialis


However, both the Flexor Hallucis Longus and the Flexor Digitorum Longus can limit dorsiflexion and should be excluded to be sure that they are not involved.  To exclude these two structures from your list of possible dysfunctional contributors simply ask the patient to maximally dorsiflex their ankle while keeping their heel on the ground.

1. Gently pick up the great toe off the ground into extension. If there is slack and the patient does not indicate an increase in symptoms then the FHL is more than likely not involved.
2. Repeat tissue testing by selecting the toes and pulling them into extension.  If there is slack and the patient does not indicate and increase in symptoms then the FDL is more than likely not involved.


dorsiflexion  ankle motion


To identify the underlying tissue whether it be the soleus or posterior tibialis requires some discernable palpation skills.


Did I make a permanent change?

Charlie Weingroff calls it the “Audit Process”  while others such as good friend and colleague Pete Viteritti simply calls it, test-treat-retest.  If the correct treatment choice was matched to the correct tissue choice and location then a marked improvement in range, function and/or pain levels should occur. 

If minimal or no improvements were made than the following may have occurred:

1. You applied the correct treatment to the wrong tissue (tissue adhesion was within the posterior tibialis and you treated the soleus for example), or
2. You applied the incorrect treatment to the correct tissue (pressure was too light and thus was not sufficient to break up the underlying scar tissue), or
3. The limiting factor was not soft tissue but instead an osteokinematic “misalignment” or a position fault as described and made famous by Brian Mulligan (more Mulligan in a future post).

Summary: The most important step in any treatment approach starts with first identifying the correct pain generator or dysfunctional tissue involved.  Without a correct place to start, all treatment options will fail to make a lasting change.

Topics: Art Horne, basketball conference, basketball training programs, athletic training conference, athletic training, boston hockey conference, Barefoot in Boston, Dorsiflexion, ankle problems