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Ankle Mobility: Understand The Link to Knee Pain

Are you an avid basketball player wondering why your knees ache after playing basketball, running or working out?

In this blog, we shed light on a crucial factor that might be the root cause of your knee discomfort – ankle mobility. We’ll delve into exploring and explaining why ankle mobility is essential for knee health and logevity.

The Significance of Ankle Mobility:

Mobility encompasses muscle flexibility, motor control, and range of motion. Ankle mobility refers to your ability to access and use the full range of motion of your ankle. The ankle mobility that is critical for everyday activities, walking working out and playing sports is ankle dorsiflexion, or your ankle’s ability to allow the heel to stay down while the knee moves past the toes. The dynamic movements in basketball, such as running, landing, jab stepping, crossovers, jumping, and pushing off, require adequate ankle mobility to perform optimally and efficiently.

Consequences of Poor Ankle Mobility:

The consequences lies in the repercussions of insufficient ankle mobility, specifically ankle dorsiflexion. The body keeps balance by having a mobile joint, followed by a stable joint, followed by a mobile joint, and so forth. For example, the ankle is a mobile joint, the knee is a stable joint, and the hip is a mobile joint.

As explained, the ankle is a mobile joint and when the ankle can’t move as intended, the force and stress from activity will be passed off to the next joint: the knee. That added stress could lead to overuse injuries, such as patella or quadriceps tendinopathy, cartilage irritation, and joint inflammation.

Moreover, poor ankle mobility causes the knee to become more of a “mobile” joint inseady of a stable joint to compensate for the ankle. This extra mobility at the knee could lead to malalignment issues, causing the knee to move inward or outward, and injuries such as patellofemoral pain or IT Band syndrome, liagment injuries (ACL, MCL, LCL, PCL), patella subluxation/dislocation, and muscle/tendon strains.

How to Assess Ankle Mobility:

To assess your ankle mobility, we suggest a very simple test: The Knee-To-Wall Test

How to Perform:

  1. Find a wall and a measuring tape/ruler
  2. Get into a half kneeling position facing the wall with the tape/ruler on the ground parallel to you
  3. Keeping your heel down, drive your knee past your toes.
  4. Record the distance (in centimeters) and any sensations (tightness in the front/back, pain/discomfort, knee tightness, etc.)
  5. Repeat on your other leg
  6. Compare your scores and sensations side-to-side

Addressing Ankle Mobility for Knee Health:

Understanding the link between ankle mobility and knee health is key to reduce the risk of knee injuries. Training and improving ankle mobility becomes crucial in preventing unnecessary stress on the knee joint, especially following an ankle sprain. There are numerous ways to improve your ankle mobility, and here is a simple 4-step process to improve your ankle dorsiflexion mobility.


In conclusion, ankle mobility is not merely a buzzword, but a key component of overall knee health, particularly for athletes engaged in sports like basketball. We hope you learned and gained some insight on the importance of paying attention to your ankle’s mobility to safeguard your knees from potential injuries. So, the next time you hit the court, remember that a well-mobilized ankle might be the key to unlocking a pain-free game. Don’t forget to share this valuable information with your fellow athletes. Let’s ball for life!

The Basketball Doctors - Gabriel Ignacio Physical Therapist

Dr. Gabriel Ignacio PT, DPT, OCS, TPI

The Basketball Doctors - Marco Lopez Physical Therapist

Dr. Marco Lopez PT, DPT, CSCS

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