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Monday, January 25, 2021

Right and Left Handed: Its Influence on Mechanics

I have had the personal experience of spraining my left ankle in basketball multiple times. It is not fun. You learn, as an athlete, that right handed players land first with their left foot in basketball and that is the typical foot that lands on someone else’s foot and rolls it. This injury influenced by your hand dominance has been a fascination for me in my career of podiatry. It is always fun after watching someone walk to tell them they are left handed and be correct!!!

Right Handed vs Left Handed: Effect on Lower Extremity Biomechanics


Ask any ballet dancer if they are dominant on their right or left side because they are right handed or left handed and they will say no!!! They spend their whole careers fighting any dominance of strength and coordination from being right or left handed. But for most of us, we use one side of our bodies a lot better, stronger, gracefully, than the other side. I am right handed and I have long played basketball as if I have no left hand--pretty gruesome sight to behold at times!!


If you are right handed, your right side is your movement side (the side you kick the ball with), and your left side is your support side (the one you plant for stability before you kick the ball). And vice versa if you are left handed. And there are shades of this that I see in patients, and myself, from very dominant handed to almost ambidextrous.


So a very common pattern of problems I see concerns the instability (weakness) on the support side. This can be very dangerous and slows down or speeds up rehabilitation. For an example, let us take a left ankle sprain in a right handed patient. The injury is to their support leg. The leg they support with is technically injured and unsupportive. And this can dramatically slow down rehab. The more dominant they are to their right side, and the more they rely on the left side for support, the more a left sided ankle sprain is disabling. Patients also hate to make their movement leg into their support leg. It feels so unnatural to them. So, it is much better for a right handed patient to sprain their right ankle, they seem to heal from and handle this injury better. When a right handed patient sprains their left ankle, they must regain that stability as quickly as possible with boots, braces, casts, taping and strengthening exercises. When a right handed patient sprains their right ankle, the goal is protecting it, but emphasizing getting motion back fast.


I hope this explains a common problem seen in a podiatry practice when an injury occurs to one side. I like to ask if they are right or left handed to make some correlation with the movement side vs the support side. I have seen many variations of problems created with this phenomenon. Recognizing this syndrome can help in subtle ways patients recover sooner.

This is an excerpt from my book “Secrets to Keep Moving”.


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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.