Scoring Touchdowns Makes Sense, Scoring Movement Does Not

Let me preface this entry by saying that Gray Cook is an incredibly intelligent guy and he has been at the forefront of the "movement to movement", so for that I have to thank him.  He has definitely influenced my education in only positive ways.

That being said, I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get right into this.  The Functional Movement Screen system is a great tool for certain sectors of health and fitness, but it does not belong at the elite level of athletics.   FMS has positively started to shift the focus of performance training to that of proper movement patterns rather than trying to pile strength and power on top of a weak foundation.  In the injury rehabilitation world, tools like FMS and SFMA have helped practitioners look at injuries as a result of inefficient or poor movement throughout the body, instead of focusing solely on pain or the area of chief complaint.  For these reasons it has been a blessing to many of us.

A few years back Gray Cook, who is a physical therapist by education, wrote a book called "Movement" that introduced the FMS/SFMA screens.  The Functional Movement Screens are a group of movements that can be scored, and based upon standardized scores are deemed acceptable or not.  The Selective Functional Movement Assessments are tailored more towards movement screening for those people who already have an injury.  These screening protocols, and many that have sprung up just like it, have spread like wildfire through the fitness and healthcare industries.  The popularity is due in part to the fact that they really do help practitioners/trainers recognize true causes of injuries, and the fact that they can be taught and implemented in a weekend seminar.  Being a recent graduate of chiropractic school, I know just how "dangerous" a weekend seminar can be.  All of the sudden every patient presentation needs exactly what you just learned the past weekend, WHAT A COINCIDENCE!!!

Well, with out making too many enemies I believe that the FMS screening protocol is horrible...at the elite level of athletic or for those who are educated beyond an online certification.  Now let me explain.  Most everyone has heard of the NFL combine, a series of tests that are scored and then analyzed by scouts in order to take raw talent and make it somewhat measurable.  Some of the more popular tests in the draft are the 40-yard dash, the 225 bench press test and the vertical jump.  All of these tests can be boiled down to hard, fast numbers; numbers that can be improved upon by proper training and hard work.  Now compare this to the scoring done in an FMS screen, some of the more popular screens in this protocol are the overhead squat and the step-over inline lunge.  Now quantify these movements, provide them to a psychological fragile athlete (which we know all elite athletes are), and then try to get them to improve on something that may not be able to change.  There are some developmental issues, sports specific training and many other reasons why a certain movement pattern may not be achievable by all athletes.  So when you tell an athlete that they have failed a test, but they do not possess the ability to truly improve upon this area, you are setting them up for a shot to the ego that is not easily remedied.

Now I know some of you are saying, why does an athlete care if they fail a screen or not?  Well they do.  Elite athletes are notorious perfectionists, and when we place so much emphasis on something that may not be able to be changed, or more importantly that may not NEED to be changed.  Well, that is where the rubber meets the road.  So what do I propose?

While working with the Sports Performance department at Bradley University, one of the first things brought to my attention was, "we are using FMS, but what do we do when we get the scores?".  Now this is a perfect example of what I'm trying to convey here.  The Bradley Sports Performance staff is at the top of the collegiate training world, but even at that level they were a little lost as what to do with these "scores".  My job while at Bradley came to be one of integration between the athletic training staff and the sports performance coaches.  A marriage between injury prevention, proper injury treatment and cutting edge sports injury rehabilitation.  One day while performing a set of "screens" that I have developed on an athlete I was questioned by the athletic training staff as to where I "learned" this screening protocol.  My simple response was that these assessments were a culmination of 4 years of chiropractic education, 3 years of a masters in sports science and rehabilitation, and hundreds of hours of working with the top practitioners in the field of sports manual medicine.  I know it sounds like I'm bragging, but what I'm trying to say is that cookie cutter screening protocols, lead to cookie cutter diagnosis and treatment.

The most powerful tool in the toolbox of any practitioner or trainer is his or her education and experience.  The FMS is literally a step backward for most of the people that end up implementing it.  Then why is the popularity soaring?  For one, Gray Cook has the education and the experience needed to be a great practitioner, and he is a motivational and charismatic speaker.  That paired with the ease of implementation have led to an FMS take over.

Stop quantifying movement, and start qualifying it.  No two people are the same and in fact the left and right side of one person are never the same either.  So what does that mean?  It means that you have to be a student of human movement, an anatomy superstar and most importantly you must trust your knowledge and be supremely confident when dealing with athletes.  You have to treat each individual as an INDIVIDUAL.  Evidence based treatment will never fall out of favor, nor will there ever be a replacement for those professionals who go beyond the normal curriculum and beyond the norms of the their field.  Break the mold, if you have a hunch and can back it with sufficient data go with it.  That is how progress is made.

Until next time...

"All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward"
- Ellen Glasgow

Dr. Beau Beard, DC