The human body is designed to move. We do it everyday, some of us more than others depending on what our physical work demands are and what sports and exercises we are involved in. Like with most things in life, there are good ways and less optimal ways to do things. And this is especially true when it comes to movement.

One of the hot topics in the sports rehab world currently is injury prevention programs or “movement screens”. These are done as a pre-test, in which athletes can measure the quality of their movement, in order to assess their risk of injury in that chosen task/sport as well as find ways to improve performance.

So why is this important to us as physiotherapists? Well most of the time I will see my patients after they are injured from over training, using incorrect technique or having an accident. How good would it be to intervene with patients before an actual injury occurs and stop them being in pain and missing training?

Plenty of specific “Movement screen” tests are already being used in professional sporting groups or used in health professionals’ clinics, and some even have a lot of evidence and scientific testing to back up their findings. These tests will give us averages (“normative data”) of what scores we should hope an athlete should achieve in order to minimize their risk of injury. However, you don’t always need a fancy test with equipment and expertise to gauge the quality of your movements. Anyone can perform their own basic movement screen test by just having a look at their movement of a particular task and having a rough understanding of what the minimal requirements are.

Let’s look at this idea further with looking at the body weight squat, arguably the most basic human movement pattern which we complete subconsciously daily (think every time you stand up from a chair in a day!!).

A great way to start a self movement screen is to perform a body weight squat either in front of a mirror or film yourself on your phone.

How does it feel when you squat? Are you aware of any restriction in the body or pain somewhere?

If we break the squat down into our joints in the leg – the ankle, knee and hip – we need to ensure all of these joints are moving together into a well-coordinated bending position (what we call triple flexion). We need to achieve 40-50 degrees of ankle bend to get into our bottom position. A good way to self assess is to perform a knee to wall test. Simply place your foot flat on the ground with the toes touching the wall. Keeping your heel flat drive your knee forward to hit the wall. With moving the foot further away from the wall, you want to find the point just before you can no longer keep the heel down to get the knee to hit the wall. You would be aiming to at least achieve a distance of 10-12cm from your toe to the wall in order to perform a good quality deep squat.

Next, looking at the hips. We need a good amount of hip bend and also the ability for our hips to rotate. I can do a quick screen with a patient with them laying on their back, and simply bending their hip up to find the point of restriction. You can also do this yourself by bending your knee up to your chest as much as you can and comparing it to the other side (keep the other leg straight). In a squat we need to achieve an angle of 50 degrees from our thigh to our trunk in the bottom position. If we notice a limitation in range or any pain this will start to make me question whether a hip mobility issue may be limiting your movement.

Getting a better idea of our movement quality will allow us to work out what aspects of mobility or strength we need to work on in order to get a good depth squat or reduce pain or discomfort. It is a lot easier to deal with little niggles now rather than keep putting up with them until you actually sustain an injury which forces you to take time off training. I believe everyone should be able to perform some form of a squat and it is well worth your time working on increasing your efficiency and quality of this fundamental movement pattern.

Here at Stack St Physio, we offer a full 1 hour CrossFit Performance Screen where we can further breakdown your movement patterns and run you through important movement screening tests, injury prevention and capacity assessments to address any important areas you may need to make adjustments too. We will present our findings to you in a report and compare what we see to what we would hope to see; from there we build a program on our class-leading rehab app, TrackActive, for you to follow along during your prehab sessions. For more details about how to book our CrossFit Performance Screens please click here.

Prehab doesn’t need to take a lot of time out of our days, most people need to look at 3-4 sessions per week to add 10 minutes into their current training times.

So screen your movement; for the sake of prevention AND performance!

– Nicola

Physiotherapist | Stack St Physio

Physiotherapy | Sports Injuries and Rehabilitation | Fremantle WA

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