One of the newer trends in the fitness and sports medicine industry is to use movement screens when working with clients. The idea is that the screen will allow the clinician the ability to assess how a client moves and potentially predict who will have an injury. However, a new study published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine demonstrates that movement screens cannot accurately predict the risk of injury. Before we throw them out, though, let’s dive a little deeper.
We know that the greatest predictors of injury are previous injury and rate of increase. We also know that there are certain movements and postures that can lead to an injury depending on the joint. What we can’t do yet is look at a person moving and predict that they will get injured. We can see that they are at a higher risk for getting injured, but we can’t say when they will get hurt and what specific injury they will get. That does not mean that assessing movement does not have value. On the contrary, I believe that addressing movement dysfunction is essential to optimum health and performance.
As much as I enjoy science and research, we like to put all movement into a box in an attempt to eliminate individual variables, which does not happen in real life. We have what is considered the ‘ideal’ movement, but not everyone can achieve it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that individual is at greater risk for injury, it just means that we want to optimize movement in their body. Personally, I believe that injury screens are helpful the same way that testing is helpful; it provides baseline information that we can track for improvement over time. If individuals have movement compensations or asymmetries side to side that is something that we can correct, if need be, and optimize, along with improving strength, endurance and flexibility. When people move better, they tend to feel better and if they feel better they perform better.
So, while a movement screen may not predict specific injury risk, it can be a very helpful tool in crafting exercise and treatment programs geared toward achieving optimal individual movement quality. The value of the screen may not lie in the ability to predict injury, but in the ability to improve movement. The quantifiable score allows for objective information about how individuals are improving and can be integrated with standardized performance testing to assess ongoing progress.
Bushman, T. et. al. (2016). The functional movement screen and injury risk. American Journal of Sports Medicine; 44 (6). http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/44/2/297.abstract
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