Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Susan H.N. Jeno


Joint Instability; Musculoskeletal System -- injuries


Generalized joint hyperlaxity is characterized by excess range of motion in most joints, which surpasses accepted normal range of motion values for the population. Hyperlaxity is present in 4-7% of the general population. Literature is inconclusive regarding the significance of joint laxity as a predisposing factor to injury in non-athletic populations.

The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a significant correlation between joint laxity and previous musculoskeletal injuries. In addition, the data was evaluated to compare laxity rates by gender, choice of collegiate major, type of injuries, and weekly activity level.

Two hundred thirty-nine students, age 18 to 30 years old, on the University of North Dakota campus were voluntarily recruited to participate in this study. Subjects were excluded if they fell outside the age category or had competed in a sport on a national or collegiate level. A participant survey was given to each subject. The survey gathered demographic data regarding the subject's age, gender, major of study, activity level, frequency and intensity of exercise activity, and injuries which required medical attention from a physician. The Beighton test of hyperlaxity was used to determine the laxity status of individuals for classification purposes. Students with generalized joint hyperlaxity did not demonstrate significantly higher rates of previous musculoskeletal injuries. Trends showed individuals with hyperlaxity were more likely to sustain injuries involving sprains and dislocations, whereas individuals with nonnallaxity were more likely to display ligamentous injuries and bone fractures . When gender was compared, females exhibited significantly greater systemic joint hyperlaxity than the males. A significant difference in hyperlaxity rates was found between students in physical and occupational therapy programs compared to those in other majors. Research showed no correlation between high frequencies of physical activity and increased generalized joint hyperlaxity.

The high incidence of hyperlaxity in therapy students may create challenges in their careers as clinicians. Future studies of practicing physical and occupational therapists are warranted to determine if therapists with generalized joint hyperlaxity have a greater incidence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in their career. Regular exercise is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Individuals with hyperlaxity should not be deterred from a daily exercise routine. All patients, regardless of their laxity status, should be taught to exercise in a safe and effective manner.