The functional movement screen: The ultimate tool or just smoke and mirrors?

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

The functional movement screen is a regularly used tool in order to assess athletes and in commonly cited as a predictor of risk of injury. When screening, it is important to consider more than just the classification of movement patterns. When designing a screening process it is imperative to identify the energy systems involved, the strength qualities required, the joint angles and vectors associated with the sport, the external stimulus that the athlete responds to as well as identification of the common injuries in the given sport.

Why should we perform functional movement screening?

1. To create a continuous focus on the fundamentals of movement

2. To create a functional baseline to monitor progress

3. To develop a reliable & reproducible screen with specific markers for movement problems

4. To monitor improvements in functional fitness and athletic performance

5. To help reduce the potential for training and sports injuries

6. To provides a simple grading system to assess movement patterns

7. To easily utilise in athletic and general fitness populations

8. To identify physical imbalances, limitations & weaknesses

9. To improve fundamental movement patterns with simple corrective exercises

10. To help individualise training and conditioning programs for specific results

11. To attempt to identify potential cause-and-effect relationships in relation to movement asymmetries and weaknesses

Published injury audits can be a good starting point to identify the common injuries and/or the mechanism of injury which can form the rationale for a screening process. An example of the information that can be gained from an injury audit is below (FA injury Audit, Hawkins 2001):

• Each player had 1.3 injuries/per season

• 24 days missed per injury

• 4 matches missed per injury

• 75% of injuries were a consequence of non-contact mechanism

• The greatest injury incidence was in July

• 45% of match injuries sustained in the last 15 minutes of the game

• Fatigue affects movement mechanics (Greig, 2007; 2008; 2009)

A Quick glance at the research: Is symmetry important?

Chalmers et al. (2017) reported that Australian rules football players who displayed asymmetry were more likely to be injured during the regular season, but composite score <14 did not predict injury. In elite track and field athletes with <14 and at least one asymmetry is more likely to predict injury than those with >14 and no asymmetry

(Chapman et al. 2013).

Is the FMS reliable? (Beardsley and Contreras, 2014)

FYI - THE FMS Scoring sheet:

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AGRESTA, C., SLOBODINSKY, M., TUCKER, C. 2014. Functional Movement Screen – Normative Values in Healthy Distance Runners. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 35, p.1203-1207.

BEARDSLEY, C., CONTRERAS, B. 2014. The Functional Movement Screen: A Review. National Strength and Conditioning Association. 36 (5), p. 72-80.

CHALMERS, S., FULLER, J., DEBENEDICTIS, T., TOWNSLEY, S., LYNAGH, M., GLEESON, C. 2017. Asymmetry during preseason Functional Movement Screen testing is associated with injury during a junior Australian Football season. 20, (7), p.653-657.

CHAPMAN, R., LAYMON, A., ARNOLD, T. 2014. Functional movement scores and longitudinal performance outcomes in elite track and field athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 9, p. 203-2011.

GREIG, M., WALKER-JOHNSON, C. 2007. The influence of soccer-specific fatigue on functional stability. Physical Therapy in Sport. 8, p.185-190.

LISMAN, P., O’CONOR, F., DEUSTER, P., KNAPIK, J. 2013. Functional Movement Screen and Aerobic Fitness Predict Injuries in Military Training. 45 (4), p.636-643.

WARREN, M., SMITH, C., CHIMERA, N. 2015. Association of the Functional Movement Screen With Injuries in Division I Athletes. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. 24, p.163-170.

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