Movement Impairments Amongst Division I Collegiate Athletes

Baseline screening for high risk movement patterns has become increasingly more common during pre-participation examination for college athletes.  This week’s EXSS Impact post highlights the work of HMSC PhD student Tim Mauntel and his research team members (Rebecca Begalle, Barnett Frank, Shiho Goto, Laura Stanley, Darin Padua) in identifying common movement impairments in college athletes.  Many thanks to Tim for developing this week’s EXSS Impact content.

Why did you do this study?

mauntel1Musculoskeletal injuries are the most significant medical issue limiting physical activity amongst collegiate athletes. Non-contact and overuse lower extremity injuries account for over 50% of all musculoskeletal injuries and result in significant time loss from activity and substantial medical costs. The negative consequences of musculoskeletal injury make it essential to identify individuals at increased risk of injury prior to them sustaining an injury.

Abnormal movement patterns result in irregular stresses on the musculoskeletal system and increase the risk of sustaining non-contact and overuse injuries. Fortunately, many risky (abnormal) movement patterns can be identified during quick, cost effective overhead and single leg squat movement assessments.

Identifying individuals at increased risk of injury allows sports medicine clinicians to implement injury prevention strategies, reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, and reduce short- and long-term injury consequences. However, sports medicine clinicians may be inhibited from assessing all of their athletes because of other clinical responsibilities and therefore may not identify all individuals at increased risk of injury. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine normative movement assessment and range of motion data for incoming collegiate athletes. Clinicians can use these data to better develop injury prevention strategies.

What did you do and what did you find in this study?

We assessed the movement patterns of in-coming varsity athletes during an overhead and single leg squat movement assessment. Lower extremity ranges of motion were also assessed to give insight into why individuals moved like they did.

The figures below show the most common risky movement patterns observed during each squat assessment (percentages of individuals displaying each risky movement pattern).

mauntel_fig1 mauntel_fig2During the overhead squat assessment, more than 50% of the athletes demonstrated the following movement impairments:

  • Foot turns out (external rotation)
  • Lateral hip shift
  • Excessive forward lean

During the single leg squat assessment more than 50% of the athletes displayed:

  • Foot / arch flattening
  • Knee valgus / medial knee displacement
  • Trunk / hip shift
  • Hip hike or drop
  • Loss of balance

How do these findings impact the public?

The normative percentages of individuals who display risky movement patterns and the normative lower extremity ranges of motion identified during this study will benefit sports medicine clinicians. The information from this study can help guide injury prevention strategies and in-turn reduce lower extremity injury rates.

Furthermore, the data collected during this study is used to compare athletes to as they return to activity following an injury. This information helps clinicians determine if the athlete needs to continue to improve, has returned to pre-injury status, or (best case scenario) now moves better than prior to injury and thus has a reduced injury risk. Reducing injury rates will mitigate the negative short- and long-term effects of injury while increasing physical fitness and performance.