The FMS is a great tool to uncover asymmetry and movement dysfunction in fitness clients as well as patients in the clinic who are ready to transition back to sport. I have been using this tool consistently for 2.5 years in my practice. One of the questions I have asked myself about the screening tool is how reliable is it?
Click here for an earlier post I wrote on this topic regarding what it tells us as practitioners. One of the challenges with any screen or test is not only validity but reliability. In the April edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, we gain some new insight regarding intra and interrater reliability via 2 new articles.
The first article discusses a controlled laboratory study where repeated measures were used to investigate how experience using the FMS and clinical experience as an athletic trainer (AT) affects the intrarater reliability of FMS testing. The raters (17 men and 21 women who were recruited from the university’s athletic training clinical staff and academic programs), with different levels of FMS and clinical experience (AT students, AT or AT with at least 6 months experience using the FMS) viewed each of the 3 videotaped models.
None of the AT students or AT members had seen or used the FMS previously compared to the AT group with at least 6 months of experience. Each group rated the models on each of the FMS exercises according to the script presented by the lead investigator. A week later the raters watched the same videos again in a different randomized order and rated each model on each exercise.
The intersession scores were examined to establish intrarater reliability of all participants. In addition, the intrarater reliability of different groups of participants (students and clinicians) was compared to infer differences about the influence of clinical experience as an AT along with previous experience using the FMS.
One of my favorite quotes from a well known fitness professional, Alwyn Cosgrove, is: “Exercise is a drug. If we give the right drug in the right dose – everything works. But, if we give the wrong drug or even the right drug in the wrong dose, we cause more problems than provide solutions.” In essence, dosage matters a whole lot. This means that getting it just right is also not by accident, but by careful analysis and exacting prescription.
After a thorough evaluation, exercise selection and progression must be predicated on the end goal for the athlete. Where are they now? How do I get him/her back to 100% Understanding the injury itself, training and medical history as well as inflammation and healing time frames is important, but that is just one part of the equation.
For those with experience, you already know athletes heal differently and no two injuries are ever just alike. Addressing the mental components outlined in my previous post, Return to Play: Part 1 (The Athlete’s Mindset), is the starting point. Next, you must formulate a plan to physically mend, challenge and prepare the athlete’s body to return to its previous functional level.
Below are some BIG mistakes I have either made along the way or witnessed in my career:
Now, on the my next big point. I strongly believe you need to know how HARD the exercises you suggest are in order to effectively prescribe them. One of my primary philosophies is that I will not prescribe exercises I cannot do. Not only is this critical for teaching proper form, it is a must to gage fatigue, workout demand, recovery needs and so on.
Possessing a solid grasp of volume and intensity is also essential. For example, having an athlete who is 6 weeks post-op with a bone-tendon-bone ACL autograft reconstruction do too much eccentric quad loading will inevitably lead to anterior knee pain or patellar tendonitis. Would you do 10 separate eccentric quad exercises (2-3 sets of 10-15 each) in one hour ? I do not do this type of volume on my healthy knee, but I have seen rehab done this way. We must always keep a watchful eye on load, time under tension and overall volume throughout the rehab process. The proper balance is critical.
I have spent the past 16 years helping athletes get back to their sport or desired activity following an injury. Whether dealing with muscle strains or ACL ruptures, every injured client shares the same goal of making a full recovery and getting back to their previous activity level. My purpose in writing a blog series on this topic is simply to share some pearls I have picked up along the way and to help others learn from my mistakes and successes.
Beyond the severity and nature of the injury itself, there are several considerations that play a significant role in the rehabilitation process including: the athlete’s emotions, goals, mental toughness, age, experience, previous medical history, relationships with parents/coaches/teammates, innate movement patterns, etc. I feel the first and perhaps most important step in the recovery process involves connecting with the athlete on an emotional level.
Injured clients want to know that their medical team (MD, PT, ATC and strength coach) really care about their well being, that they truly understand the impact of the injury on his/her life, and that they can provide the skilled care necessary to restore the body to its prior level of function. Too many times, we as health care professionals speak first espousing all our expertise and often forget to LISTEN enough. Our athletes want to feel special during this low point in their life.
Pearl #1 - Spend more time listening on the first meeting/visit to gain a thorough understanding of how the injured athlete “feels” and views their current injury. I spend the majority of my eval time interviewing the client to allow them to describe their physical symptoms, but more importantly fully elaborate on their goals, perceptions and thought processes surrounding the rehab timeline and expected outcome. Knowing how they feel (afraid, angry, depressed, etc) is essential in order to connect as well as properly motivate/coach throughout.
Many athletes (especially those who have been injured before) tend to want to dictate how things will go or pre-determine when they will be able to return to the playing field. I will re-direct them, but it is wise to listen to them tell you what did not work for them in the past. Mistakenly, they often compare their injuries to past experiences of their own or peers. While prior experience dealing with the same injury is helpful mentally preparing for the recovery process, it is critical to remind the athlete coach and family that no two injuries are exactly alike and that the recovery process will be guided by specific milestones and processes as opposed to “what happened in the past.”
Pearl #2 - Thoroughly educate the athlete on his/her condition, the anticipated timeline for return to sport and the implications for pushing too hard and fast in rehab. Never assume he/she does not want to know all the details. Emphasize that your goal is to return to sport as soon as possible but in a safe manner that ensures adequate recovery and minimizes the risk for re-injury. Telling your athletes the “why” behind each and every decision (exercise selection, reps, sets, practice limitations, etc) will help put the athlete at ease early on and foster trust and collaboration. This is an absolute must. To ensure success, we need the athlete to honestly and openly communicate throughout. I tell every athlete I work with that we are a team dedicated to the same goal - this achieves buy in from them up front as they see I am fully committed and invested in them.
In almost all cases, I find the athletes fear losing their starting position and/or letting down the coach far more than long term damage to their bodies. As such, I tell them it really is okay to rest and recover. They seemingly feel guilty about not contributing and their self-worth may markedly diminish. Recognizing this and encouraging them to be patient, stay the course and see the light at the end of the tunnel is very important. You see, the emotional and psychological healing is a HUGE part of the process during rehab. Being an advocate for the patient and not the sport provides security and emotional support for the injured client.
For those familiar with my blog, you know I like to post research updates and exercises that prevent injury and maximize performance. In my setting, I get to work with a very active population ranging in ages from 10-50 in most cases, including elite and professional athletes. I am pointing this out simply because I have an opportunity to test and measure unique and challenging exercises every day with fit, athletic clients.
As part of my world, I am often faced with restoring shoulder, core and hip stability. As clients progress through rehab and conditioning, I am always seeking advanced training options that are feasible and functional. One training tool I like to employ, especially in upper body, core and hip training is the BOSU Balance Trainer.
Emphasizing co-contraction and scapulothoracic and glenohumeral stability is essential for optimal shoulder function. But more importantly, addressing kinetic chain function in the shoulder, torso and hips is a must if we are to soundly address energy leaks and reduce injury risk. To that end, I like to incorporate unstable closed kinetic chain training when my athletes are ready. The video below demonstrates two upper body step-up progressions (forward and side-to-side) on the BOSU Balance Trainer that I utilize for higher level clientele.
Upper Body Step-ups
Regression - in place stepping (this can be used to prepare clients for the step-ups)
This regression can also be a very effective training tool especially if the client lacks sufficient strength, endurance and form to execute the full step-up patterns. Pain and form should always guide exercise selection and progression.
Below are two links to my Functionally Fit columns describing the execution and application of these exercises:
The company I am privileged to work for has officially entered into a partnership with Athletes’ Performance. We are joining forces with them to take our performance training to an even higher level. So, the Athletic Performance Center is now:
I am pumped as we will be able to offer the same elite level training and nutrition services that are offered at other locations in AZ, FL, TX, CA and MA. I will continue in my role as supervisor and sports physical therapist and look forward to all the great things to come. If you are not familiar with AP, check them out at www.athletesperformance.com.
Click here for a detailed press release from Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic. I am confident this new venture will help me sharpen my saw and become an even better clinician and performance training expert.