Injuries to the ankle and knee joints are common for stunt performers and can have far-reaching consequences on the rest of their bodies. Weakness or imbalances in these areas can cause compensations in the lumbar spine, thoracic spine, deltoid muscles, shoulders, and even the cervical spine, leading to pain and reduced mobility. This article explores how early diagnosis and effective rehabilitation, including functional movement training, are essential for stunt performers to recover from injuries and prevent future complications.
Stunt performers are among the most skilled and physically demanding performers in the entertainment industry. From car chases to fight scenes, they push their bodies to the limit to create the thrilling on-screen action that audiences love. However, these extreme physical demands come with a high risk of injury, especially in the ankle and knee joints, which can lead to issues in other parts of the body if left untreated.
Injuries to the ankle and knee joints, such as sprains or strains, can cause weakness or imbalances in the muscles surrounding these joints. When this happens, the body compensates by shifting the workload to other muscles, such as those in the lumbar and thoracic spine, deltoid muscles, shoulders, and even the cervical spine. Over time, this compensation can cause these muscles to become overworked and strained, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
In fact, certain types of ankle or leg injury are often linked to problems in different areas of the spine / back muscles. So if you're having back issues, use this as a handy reference to check whether the issue hasn't travelled up.
The lumbar spine, in particular, is very often affected by ankle and knee injuries. This is because the muscles in the lower body are responsible for stabilizing the spine during movement. When these muscles are weakened or imbalanced, the lumbar spine can become unstable and more susceptible to injury. Additionally, compensation from ankle and knee injuries can cause tension in the hip flexors, which can pull on the lumbar spine and cause lower back pain.
Similarly, weakness or imbalances in the muscles around the knee joint can lead to compensations in the muscles of the hips and lower back, which can affect the thoracic spine and deltoid muscles. For example, if the quadriceps muscles in the thigh are weak, the body may compensate by overusing the gluteus maximus muscles in the hip. This can cause tension and strain in the muscles of the lower back, which can radiate up into the thoracic spine and shoulders.
Shoulder pain, tightness, and rotation issues are also common among stunt performers and can be caused by compensations from lower limb injuries. Here's 2 examples:
To address shoulder pain, tightness, and rotation issues caused by lower limb injuries, stunt performers can engage in functional movement exercises that focus on improving mobility and stability in the shoulders and upper back. Here are some simple exercises that can be incorporated into a warm-up or cool-down routine:
Effective early diagnosis and good physiotherapy and rehabilitation are essential for stunt performers to recover from ankle and knee injuries and prevent further complications. Treatment should focus on restoring strength and balance to the affected muscles and joints, as well as improving flexibility and range of motion. However, it's important to note that linear training alone is not enough to address these issues. Stunt performers must also engage in functional movement training that simulates the dynamic movements and stresses of their work.
Why you should focus on Functional Movement Training, not Linear Training
Functional movement training focuses on improving movement patterns and coordination, as well as strengthening the muscles and joints in a way that prepares them for the demands of real-world activities. This type of training can help stunt performers recover from injuries more quickly and reduce the risk of future injuries by improving their overall physical preparedness.
Awareness of the links here helps us to see that ankle and knee injuries and / or weakness and imbalances can lead to issues in other parts of the body if left untreated, and can be especially problematic for stunt performers.
Early diagnosis and effective rehabilitation are crucial for recovery, and functional movement training is essential for preventing future injuries and improving overall physical preparedness. By prioritizing their physical health and well-being, stunt performers can continue to create the thrilling on-screen action that audiences love, while staying safe and injury-free.
This blog os co-authored by The ISA Team