Whether you are an athlete, recreational runner, or even someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle everyone has a unique way that they move their body. Sit on a park bench and watch people walk by and take notice of how they walk. Some may swing their hips, some may stomp around with flat feet, there is countless variables when observing the movement of the human body. Now obviously sitting on a park bench is not an appropriate or realistic way for a health care professional to observe and evaluate their patients, so what could be used to identify these abnormal “movement patterns” in the clinical setting?
Gray Cook, a physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist developed a ranking and grading system that documents movement patterns that are key to normal function, this system is called Functional Movement Screening (FMS). The screening process includes seven different movement patterns that readily help to identify functional limitations and asymmetries. The issues that are found during the screening process may reduce the effects of physical training and athletic participation and also distort body awareness during all activities whether they be athletic in nature or activities of daily living. The FMS is in no way intended to diagnosis orthopedic problems but instead frames and outlines limitations and/or asymmetries in healthy persons with respect to basic movement patterns.
The seven simple tests mentioned above place the examinee in extreme positions where weaknesses, imbalances, and/or flexibility limitations are easily identifiable if they are not using appropriate mobility and stability. Those who are well versed in FMS and have used it on all levels of fitness, state that even the most elite athlete may be unable to perform these simple movements. The inability to perform these movements indicates that the patient is using “compensatory movement patterns” during activity. If these movement patterns are not identified and corrected then the patient will be much more likely to develop poor movement patterns and will be at a higher risk for musculoskeletal injury.
The seven tests that make up the FMS are the deep squat, hurdle step, in-line lunge, active straight leg raise, trunk stability push-up, shoulder mobility, and rotary mobility tests. These tests all incorporate functional movements that will utilize muscles and joints from the head to the toes. Each individual test has it’s own criteria that it is scored on. An individual may score between a 3 (perfect score) and a 0 (lowest score). A score of 21 is considered perfect while research shows that a score of 14 or lower places the patient at an increased risk of injury. Many institutions that utilize FMS place it into their protocol that an athlete may not participate until the individuals score exceeds 14 in order to protect the athlete. Once the imbalances or weaknesses are identified corrective measures, normally mobility being the first, should be taken to correct the poor biomechanics of the patient.
The ideal situation is to screen all patients prior to competition as part of the pre-participation physical examination so that these abnormalities may be caught early on. Unfortunately there are also some downfalls to FMS such as the amount of time it takes to implement the screening itself then the corrective exercises for each individual patient and also the amount of man power needed to cover all patients. Sports with higher participation numbers (i.e. football) pose these issues but if the resources are available FMS may be a great tool to further evaluate a patient prior to competition.