I recently had a student in one of my classes that I noticed had hyperextended joints. What does it mean to have hyperextended joints? Hyperextenion of the joints are when the joint- most commonly the elbow or knee, extend beyond normal limits (2014, DictionaryReference.com). What causes hyperextension of joints? Ligaments, which are a connective tissue that connect bone to bone and provide joint stability, are loose and weak in hypermobile joints (Laskowski, 2011). In the fitness industry, hyperextension and hypermobility of joints are of great concern. Clients who have hypermobility in their joints are at great risk of injury resulting from the instability of the joint created by the loose or weak ligaments. I found it was important that I did some research on this topic and learned more about how to encourage students to safely participate in classes when they experience hyperextension of the joints.
In the case of hyperextended knees, Gudmestad (2014) states that people who experience hyperextended knees often have weak quadriceps or have the tendency to not fully engage their quadriceps muscles when in straight leg poses or stretches. Gudmestad recommends strengthening exercises that target the quadriceps muscles. An example of an easy exercise that can be performed to strengthen the quadriceps muscles begins with lying in a supine position and placing a foam roller under the knee pit. While flexing the foot, perform single leg lifts to straighten the leg while making sure to avoid hyperextending the knee when the leg is fully extended. This video demonstrates the exercise visually. There are many other exercises out there that one could do, this is just an example that I really liked because in the supine position, the foam roller placement allows the participant to lie flat and disengage the hyperextension of the knee.
How can students safely participate in pole or aerial fitness classes? Pole and aerial fitness classes have a strong emphasis on moves that incorporate flexibility thus making it difficult for students with hyperextension to avoid the natural engagement of their joints that lie in hyperextension. As an instructor it's important to be aware of students who display hyperextension in their joints. When performing movements that risk engaging hyperextension of affected joints, instructors should encourage students to work on implementing a slight bend in the areas of hyperextension such as the arms or knees. This practice decreases the impact directly on the joint and helps prevent damage to joints and ligaments (Jacoby, 2014). As students work towards strengthening surrounding muscles, the act of engaging a slight bend will become easier.
Gudmestad, J. (2014). The Hyperextended knee. Yoga Journal. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/997
Jacoby, C. (2014). What Is Hyperextension Injury? HealthGuidance for better health. Retrieved from: http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/14654/1/What-Is-Hyperextension-Injury.html
Laskowski, E.R. (2011). Joint hypermobility: What causes 'loose joints'? Mayo Clinic Online. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/hypermobility/expert-answers/faq-20058285