Biomechanics refers to the the study of the human body in a mechanical fashion. The way a mechanic analyzes a car works as an analogy applied to a biological being. The biomechanics of the ankle, therefore, refers to the act of understanding, developing, and applying concepts related to the movement of the ankle.
The biomechanics of the ankle can be very useful for a number of reasons. Elite athletes may want to learn how to strengthen their ankles and move more efficiently or with more agility. An arthritic person may desire to change his or her gait in an attempt to put less stress on the ankle joints. These are all ways in which studying the biomechanics of the ankle can be very practical and useful in real-life applications.
The biomechanics of the ankle are best understood if this important and complex joint is broken down into components. For simplicity, the major players in ankle movement are muscles, ligaments, bones, and tendons. All of these units work together to allow the ankle to function like a well-oiled machine. Of course, this is not always the case as even the finest machine sometimes breaks — when working properly, however, the ankle is capable of amazing things. Bones provide structure, and muscles contract to allow for movement, while ligaments and tendons are the connective units that hold everything together.
The primary bones involved in ankle movement are the calcaneous, or heel bone, the tibia, and the fibula. The tibia and fibula work together to make up the lower extremity of the leg, connecting to the heel bone to form the ankle. Ligaments hold bones together, while tendons attach muscles to bones. The muscles involved in the biomechanics of the ankle are the peroneals, the calf muscles, the posterior tibialis, and the anterior tibialis.
The peroneals are located on the outer ankle and foot, contracting to move the ankle downward and out. The tibialis muscles are involved in arch support as well as pulling the ankle upward. Movements in between may require partial activation of some or all of these muscles, with variations allowing the amazing full range of motion that the ankle experiences.
The biomechanics of the ankle is a fascinating and complex subject, also very important to the understanding and performance of the human body. Many professionals in academia and the medical field have dedicated their careers to furthering understanding of the biomechanics of the ankle in part so that people may live and function better.