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Research Review: The Functional Movement Screen and Female Athletes

Previous research on the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) has looked at NFL players, high school football players, firefighters, U.S.Air Force Pararescue Indoc recruits, and U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidates.  Until recently no one had formally studied the FMS specifically in a female population.  In a 2010 study published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, a team of researchers examined a sample of 38 intercollegiate female athletes in soccer, basketball, and volleyball. 

Selected findings

-Any score below 14 increased the risk of injury fourfold.  This result is consistent with other studies showing a score of 14 (out of 21) with no left vs. asymmetries as the threshold below which injury risk increases significantly.  However, because women were not represented in the NFL, Pararescue Indoc, and high school football studies, questions remained whether the 14 threshold was specific to males.  

-The study broadened the definition of "injury" to not only include conditions requiring missed time, but also to include any condition requiring attention of the medical staff.  The authors note that non-serious medical conditions can lead athletes to adopt compensatory movement patterns later resulting in injury.  This concept is a major reason why we screen in the first place. 

-Although previous injury is known to be a robust predictor of future injury, there is reason to believe that ACL reconstruction can improve injury resistance.  Many ACL patients did not receive proper training in movement fundamentals before their injury.  In fact, in an audio interview with Sportsrehabexpert.com, lead researcher Rita Chorba noted that the soccer coach for the sample team did not believe in supplementary strength and conditioning.  With only seven subjects in the entire study who had previously gone through ACL reconstruction it is difficult to make any conclusions, but it is a sad state of affairs if athletes need an injury to lead them to the appropriate strength and conditioning programs!   

-Limitations of the study included the relatively small sample size (38 athletes), the use of only a single athletic season, and the exclusion of upper extremity dominated sports such as tennis and swimming.  Volleyball does include an overhead element but, as noted by the authors, the sample size of eleven may have been too small to detect upper extremity injuries. 

 -One question often asked about the FMS is whether it is appropriate to exclude any of the screens.  The study ran explored different correlations omitting selected screens, but concluded that the regional interdependence of all body segments necessitates the inclusion of all the screen components.  The authors note a correlation between the Trunk Stability Push Up, core stability, and the predictive value of this screen not only for upper extremity injury but also for the lower body.   

Resources

Use of a Functional Movement Screening Tool to Determine Injury Risk if Female Collegiate Athletes

Sportsrehabexpert.com: Audio Interview with Rita Chorba - FMS Research with Female Athletes

Comments

Adolescent female athlete population

Having trained more than 600 teen female athletes in every sport, I am not surprised by the conclusion.
I use BNP Training [blance, neuromuscular control, proprioception] as the fundamental lower body training for every teen female athlete and I have achieved remarkable results; no ACL injuries ever reported. Grade I sprains/strains to the ankle, but not the knee.
Every female athlete needs to stabilize their lower body and train their lower body to play sports.
I have never favored compensatory movements as those athletes are not optimizing their speed, quickness, and strength. Rather, they are settling for something less.

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