How Flexible Are You?

Hypermobility is a huge problem among the female athletes I see in my clinic.  Frequently, this is partly responsible for the injuries that these athletes have been dealing with.  When I say hypermobile, I mean that their joints are naturally loose.  These people also tend to have very flexible muscles that easily move around their already flexible joints.  I like to refer to these people as floppy or Gumby (for those of you old enough to know who Gumby is).

Now, being hypermobile is generally not a problem for everyone.  In fact, hypermobility is one of the things that can make you excel at sports like gymnastics and dance.  In these sports, this hypermobility is needed to get into the incredible positions that these girls get into.  However, sometimes having that hypermobility without the proper amount of stability to balance it out, can lead to injuries.  These injuries might include patellofemoral pain syndrome, snapping hip, ankle sprains, and shoulder dislocations to name a few.  Let’s take a look at how you can tell if you’re one of these hypermobile athletes.

Can You Touch Your Palms To The Floor?

One of the tests to see if you’re hypermobile is if you can touch your palms to the floor.  To do this, you stand up straight with your feet close to each other and then bend over like you’re trying to touch your toes.  If you can put your palms flat on the floor in front of your feet, the test is positive.  Give yourself a point.

Can You Bend Your Pinky Back Too Far?

For this test see how far you can bend your pinky finger back.  With your other hand bend your pinky finger back as far as it will go without hurting yourself.  If the pinky bends back more than a 90 degree angle to your hand, it is a positive test.  You want to do this on both hands to see the outcome.  Give yourself a point for each pinky you can bend back beyond 90 degrees.

Do Your Elbows Hyperextend?

By this I mean do your elbows obviously go beyond straight?  If you straighten your elbows all the way, but it’s obvious that they get more than straight (begin to bend backwards) or go beyond what you would consider a straight line, this is a positive test.  Again, you want to check both sides.  Give yourself a point for each elbow that is obviously bending backwards.

Do Your Knees Hyperextend?

This is similar to the test with your elbows.  For this one you want to stand up straight with your knees completely straight and locked.  When you look at yourself from the side, does it look like your knees are bending backwards?  If so, you get a point for each knee that’s bending back.

Can You Touch Your Thumb To Your Wrist?

This is the one that I hate to see the most because it just makes me cringe.  For this test you first turn your palm up.  Then you bend your wrist so your fingers are pointing up.  Then, with your other hand, see if you can pull your thumb down to touch the front of your wrist.  You want to try this on both sides.  If you can touch your thumb to your wrist, the test is positive.  You get another point for each thumb you can bend down that far.

So, if you add all these little tests together, you have the potential to collect nine points.  The more points you have, to more hypermobile your joints tend to be.  You may even qualify for something called Hypermobility Syndrome.  The more hypermobile you are, the harder it may be to avoid injuries without doing anything to offset the hypermobility.  Usually, one of the last things hypermobile people need to be doing is a lot of stretching.  Check out my stretching myths article to learn more about that.

One thing you should work into your practices that has been proven to help prevent injury is some stability and proprioceptive training.  These are things like core and hip strengthening exercises and single leg stance and hopping drills.  Adding a few of these drills in at the beginning of every practice might mean the difference between staying healthy for the season and spending a lot of time on the sidelines.

How hypermobile are you?  Let me know in the comments below.  I scored a 2.  The only thing hypermobile on me is my knees.  I’ve had problems with patellofemoral pain syndrome….hmmm, I wonder if it’s related?

4 Comments

  1. Hi Kristy,
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge on hypermobility. I am a very frustrated 44 year old hypermobile Girl from Boston. As I have always been a very active and physical person. It wasn’t until I started really working out and exercising, 4 years ago, that I noticed; HOW WRONG MY POSTURE WAS AND HOW INCORRECTLY, I was using my body and muscles. Slowly but surely I’m making changes. I wish I could ask you a few questions. Like: how to keep flailing elbows pulled in, and how to bend knees correctly. I’ve made a lot of progress. But a few things still don’t feel right.
    Thank You
    Kristin
    Davittstreet@me.com

  2. I can touch a floor (1 point), my fingers are all double jointed and I can literally form a split with them, my pinkies bend back no less than a perfect 90 degrees, one does a bit more (1 point then), both of my elbows hyperextend both back and forward (2 points), I can touch both of my thumbs to my wrist (2 points), both my knees can bend to all 4 sides (back, forward, left or right), so 2 points. My ankles though are a real nightmare as are my wrists. I have to use other muscles to make them stable when walking or holding a cup with my hand, but luckily I could never really sprain them, no matter how far bended they were. When other people would end with a sprained ankle, for me this was normal position happening pretty often when walking. Could even fall off and never hurt myself. A good thing so far. A good thing has also been I was always quite awesome at yoga and gymnastics without too much training, but have avoided too much stretching exercises because balance is quite a problem for me. My knees can bend as can my elbows. Stability and balance is like a no no. I haven’t found a solution for this yet, but decided to avoid stretching, because it only intensifies stability problems. I hope once my joints won’t be as floppy and flexible as they are now. It is like that ever since I was born. And it’s a pain when doing any of the movement activities. I’m clumsy because of that and I dislike it. That’s my story.

  3. I can bend my thumb to my wrist, I never knew this was what it is called. I do notice how stiff I am if I dont strech ( I almost pulled my knee out of place three times) I dont know if thats normally for someone my age, I am eighteen.

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