Simple Movement Screens: A New Tool to Help Prevent Overuse Injuries

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Annual physicals are a great way to help monitor the health of your children and to make sure they grow up healthy and happy. In addition to an annual physical, young student athletes are likely required to have a pre-sports sports participation physical to ensure they are safe to participate in athletics. However these pre-sports participation physicals are missing a key component to help ensure an injury-free sports season. Regular sports physicals do not take into account how well a child moves, which can be vital to reducing the risk of having a non-contact sports injury.

A new tool called the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is becoming an important resource for physical therapists and other health and fitness professionals to quantify how efficiently someone moves. The FMS looks at a series of movements, and grades those movements on a scale ranging from 0 to 3. The goal of the screen is to identify poor movement patterns or asymmetries that can lead to injury or poor performance. Certain scores on the screen correlate with an increased risk of injury. For example, female collegiate athletes with a score of 14/21 or less were four times as likely to suffer a lower-extremity injury, like an ACL tear, than their counterparts who scored 15 or higher.

Through proper training and appropriate corrective exercises, poor movement patterns can be corrected, leading to higher scores on the FMS. This is important because if we can improve how well our young athletes move, we can greatly reduce their risk of having an injury. An added benefit to improving an athlete’s movement efficiency is that you also can also improve how well that same athlete runs, cuts, jumps and performs in their sport.

By using this screen, which only takes about 15 minutes to perform, young athletes who are at risk of having an injury due to poor movement patterns can be identified and provided a program to help correct any problems. Just as many adults get their blood pressure checked regularly to catch any problems before they become too serious, anyone who participates in physical activity should have their movement examined to help catch any problems before they lead to injuries.

While this screen isn’t meant to replace a child’s annual sports physical, it can play an additional role in creating a healthy and successful sports season that many parents don’t know is available to them.

Kevin Prue PT, DPT, CSCS is a graduate of Duke University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. He is the president and director of Prue Physical Therapy & Sports Performance located in Cary. He specializes sports and orthopedic physical therapy, sports performance training and injury prevention for youth and recreational athletes.

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