Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Research Updates

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In the last several months, multiple FMS studies have emerged.  For previous FMS research reviews on this site see:

For the most recent research...

1)  Chapman RFLaymon AS, Arnold T.  Functional Movement Scores and Longitudinal Performance Outcomes in Elite Track and Field Athletes.  Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013 Apr 23. [Epub ahead of print]

One of the few studies to look at symmetry issues in the FMS.  Authors studied 121 elite track and field athletes prior to their 2011 campaigns and sought to identify correlations between FMS and performance.  Significant findings:

  • Those with FMS greater than 14 had a significantly greater performance improvement from 2010 to 2011.
  • Athletes with no asymmetries had a longitudinal improvement in performance compared to those with at least one asymmetry (asymmetry is possible on five of the seven screens)
  • Athletes scoring 1 (poor) on the overhead deep squat had a significant worsening in performance compared to those scoring 2 or 3.

Implications: Authors conclude, “Functional movement ability, known to be associated with the likelihood of future injury, is also related to the ability to improve longitudinal competitive performance outcomes.”  Despite this conclusion, the more study is needed to establish any connection.  Though a strong correlation existed in this sample, it’s unclear whether the mechanism is direct (those with better FMS scores may run, jump, and throw more efficiently) or possibly indirect (those with better FMS suffering less injuries; FMS may also work as indirect marker of nervous system readiness). 

2)  Duncan MJ, Stanley M, Leddington Wright S.  The association between functional movement and overweight and obesity in British primary school children. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil.2013 May 15;5(1):11. 

A similar study to Duncan (2012) (discussed HERE).  In this newer study, 90 kids aged 7-10 were classified into three groups: normal, overweight, or obese.  This study was not evaluating the FMS but instead used the FMS as a movement standard.  Authors noted the following  

  • Total FMS score was significantly, negatively correlated with BMI (as BMI increased, FMS score got worse)
  • Functional movement scores were significantly higher for normal weight children compared to obese children
  • Normal weight children performed significantly better on all individual tests within the FMS compared to their obese peers and significantly better than overweight children for the deep squat and shoulder mobility tests
  • Overweight children scored significantly better than obese in the hurdle step in line lunge, shoulder mobility, and active straight leg raise
  • FMS was not significantly different between boys and girls when considered as total scores.
  • …but girls performed significantly better than boys on the hurdle step and straight leg raise but poorer than boys on the trunk stability push-up. (This is not surprising as the ASLR is more a mobility test, HS is balance, and TSPU is more stability)

Implication: maintaining a healthy weight for young kids is important for many health reasons, one of which is movement.  Looking bigger picture, we know that people who move well generally want to move more often.  An unhealthy weight at a young age can establish a negative cascade that may follow kids for many years. 

3) Shultz R, Anderson SC, Matheson GO, Marcello B, Besier T.  Test-retest and interrater reliability of the functional movement screen.  J Athl Train.2013 May-Jun;48(3):331-6. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-48.2.11. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Intra and interrater reliability is still a popular issue in the FMS literature and in the field.  Taking the course and staying “sharp” with screening methods is critical to ensure the results are consistent and reliable, both for the same rater but also comparing different raters, particularly if practitioners are working collectively.

Shultz studied inter and intrarater reliability with a group of 39 NCAA D-I athletes as subjects (21 female, 18 male).   In this experiment, athletes were screened twice with the first screen scored live but the second scored one week later on video.  The video was scored one week later by the same rater (intra rater reliability) but was also scored by five other raters to assess interrater reliability. 

Results: “Good reliability” was found for the test-retest and excellent reliability was found for the live-versus-video sessions (indicating a properly administered Skype or Youtube screen would have validity in the real world).  However, poor reliability was found for the interraterreliability.  This latter finding is in contrast to other studies. 

Bottom line for reliability: training on how to score the FMS still has room for improvement, as interrater reliability remains inconsistent in the field and in literature such as this.  (Onate 2012 and Minnick 2010 showed high interrater reliability.)

4) Smith CA, Chimera NJ, Wright NJ, Warren M.  Interrater and intrarater reliability of the functional movement screen.  J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Apr;27(4):982-7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182606df2.

Another recent reliability study (Smith 2013):  “Four raters with varying education and FMS experience went through a two hour FMS training session before the study.  Subjects (n = 19) were rated during 2 sessions, 1 week apart, using standard FMS protocol and equipment. Interrater reliability was good for session 1 and for session 2.  The individual FMS movements showed hurdle step as the least reliable whereas the most reliable was shoulder mobility. Intrarater reliability was good for all raters regardless of education or previous experience with FMS. The results showed that the FMS could be consistently scored by people with varying degrees of experience with the FMS after a 2-hour training session.”

5) Clifton DR, Harrison BC, Hertel J, Hart JM.  Relationship between functional assessments and exercise-related changes during static balance.  J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Apr;27(4):966-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318260b723.

This study ran the FMS on 25 subjects before and after exercise.  Also measured changes in balance via center of pressure.  “Functional Movement Screen scores were not related to changes in static balance after exercise and may therefore not be useful to predict who will experience greater static balance deficits after exercise. Additionally, FMS scores did not differ before and after exercise.”

Implications: Not many...FMS is not intended as a before/after exercise measurement.  Interesting concept to study, but the FMS was not intended to be used in this fashion.  In fact, courses instruct that screening should occur under similar conditions to compare scores.  Perhaps more research will emerge for using the FMS as a biofeedback sensor, but for now it remains a basic movement standard akin to blood pressure and eye charts.      

6) Pacheco MM, Teixeira LA, Franchini E, Takito MY.  Functional vs. Strength training in adults: specific needs define the best intervention.  Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Feb;8(1):34-43.

This was not a study of the FMS validity per se, but rather using the FMS as an outcome measure for two different training protocols (traditional weight training vs. “functional” resistance training for older adults).  I won’t spend much time on this study since FMS was not the issue, but it is worth noting the authors did choose the FMS as the movement baseline to compare the training interventions.    

7) Butler RJ, Contreras M, Burton LC, Plisky PJ, Goode A, Kiesel K.  Modifiable risk factors predict injuries in firefighters during training academies  Work. 2013 Jan 2. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors studied 108 firefighter recruits during their academy and used the FMS (along with performance tests) to evaluate injury risk.  As with multiple prior studies, scores below 14 were significant predictors of injury.  The deep squat and push up screens (along with the non-FMS sit and reach test) were themselves predictive.  One possible reason is the stability demands of the deep squat and pushup reflect the specific challenges found during the academy. 

8) Perry FT, Koehle MS.  Normative data for the functional movement screen in middle-aged adults.  J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Feb;27(2):458-62. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182576fa6.

Studied normative values of the FMS and examined potential correlations with age, activity, and BMI in a healthy middle aged adult population.  Authors found FMS was positively related to activity but negatively related with BMI and age.  Notably, those with high BMI (over 30) scored significantly worse than those with moderate BMI.  The correlation between BMI and FMS score may also reveal a cross correlation for injury risk, as BMI itself has consistently been shown as a predictor for injury. 

9) McGill S, Frost D, Andersen J, Crosby I, Gardiner D.  Movement quality and links to measures of fitness in firefighters.  Work. 2012 Dec 14. [Epub ahead of print]

In a late 2012 study from Dr. McGill’s lab…Authors studied 282 male firefighters (n=282), all members of a major Canadian city fire department.  Physical assessments included: Torso endurance, grip strength, pull-ups, hip ROM, movement quality (FMS), age, body mass, height, body mass index, and hip and waist circumference

  • There was no relationship between age and fitness or movement quality (FMS).
  • Compared to other populations, our firefighter population had poorer torso endurance but similar grip strength.
  • Larger body mass, waist circumference and hip width were correlated with poorer Total Movement Score. (note, similar to prior studies relating body makeup to FMS)
  • Back extensor endurance (Biering-Sorensen test) was found to have the strongest relationship with Total Movement Score in comparison to all other tests. (one theory: flexion bias via kyphosis or simply anterior muscle dominance would lend itself to lower scores on most, if not all, of the seven screens)
  • Extensor endurance and pull-ups were related to five of nine tasks each.
  • The magnitude of hip ROM asymmetry related only to the stand-sit-stand movement test.
  • Conclusions: "In general, correlations between variables were relatively low, suggesting that most of these variables are independent and/or unrelated to one another. Movement quality is not strongly correlated with traditionally utilized markers of fitness, nor is movement linked to age. This would imply that training should include movement competency components together with traditional fitness objectives." 

In other words, though capacity and competency are related, they are not one in the same. Simply getting faster/stronger is not alone sufficient for baseline movement competency.    


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