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How Fatigue Can Cause Injuries

The body’s lower extremities connect and distribute weight throughout movements in our daily life. Energy absorption stems from the biomechanical mechanisms of which our body approaches movements.  Improper kinematics performed by one area of the body influences other lower extremities and can produce negative consequences. Inadequate strength, control, and/or alignment of the body’s structures upon ground-reaction subjects different lower extremity areas to injury. It is through the incorrect movements produced by the lower extremity where athletic trainers can make an impact for injury reduction and prevention to athletes.

            To sufficiently evaluate the lower extremity’s response to weight distribution, analysis of one’s balance, strength, and ability in sport must occur. Recognizing any current biomechanical errors at the hip, knee, ankle, or trunk would provide a starting point for the changes needed. Most sports include landings, whether on one or two feet, from different heights during jumps or falls. Drop landings with decreased hip flexion influence angles at the knee and stability level at the ankle. Increasing hip flexion allows for greater energy distribution, reduces mechanisms of injury to the knee especially in women, and utilizes a soft-landing approach. If, though, the hip has decreased flexion a knee is more subjected to an increased valgus (inward) angle. In comparison, women more commonly will suffer an ACL injury due to weaker hip stabilizers that negatively affect knee angles upon landing. Increasing knee flexion upon drop landings will, also, distribute weight and absorb energy with greater fluency reducing injures. Ankle dorsiflexion remains a critical component in shock absorption and injury prevention. Greater dorsiflexion angles encourage deeper knee flexion, as well as reduce additional ankle joint motions that could cause injuries. In addition, trunk flexion and core strength have proven beneficial in improving drop landing kinematics.

            Fatigue significantly causes changes in a person’s drop landing. As athletes train longer and harder, their body reaction time slows decreasing proper landing mechanics. Fatigue is often seen in persons landing with greater overall extension and increased knee valgus. This is especially important to consider during training interventions and competition preparation. Correcting such faulty lower extremity positions upon athletic landings will prevent injuries, improve the muscle’s energy ability, and increase the energy dissipation throughout the body as it moves up the chain. Proper education and training of lower extremity kinematics will reduce injuries and improve overall performance of athletes. 

Amanda Kasten is a certified Athletic Trainer at Compete Sports Performance and Rehab and a former World Champion Competitive Cheerleader.