Is the FMS Accurate for Rotational Athletes?

When do you stop assessing, and is the FMS accurate for rotational athletes?

First let me say that I am a huge Gray Cook fan (who in their right strength & conditioning mind isn’t?)  I have also been totally on board with the Functional Movement Screen since I had heard about it years ago.  I’ve taken athletes through screens, helped them with their corrective work, and the theory makes absolute sense that movement issues and asymmetries can lead to a higher possibility of injury.

However what happens when you’re a one-sided rotational athlete and you’ve gone through years and years of swinging/throwing repetition on one side of the body?  You are completely destined to have a bit of an asymmetry- especially (and almost always) on the shoulder mobility test.  The next obvious question then becomes, is it beneficial to correct this asymmetry?  Even if it were, is it even possible to correct with the amount of throwing/hitting they will continually perform almost year-round?

I may be wrong here, but my answer is no it’s not worth correcting.  In fact, I don’t think it’s realistically possible unless you really hammered on it.  And if you did somehow correct it, you may hinder the athletes’ performance anyway.  There is, however, a big difference between correcting and managing.  Correcting may not be possible or desirable, “managing” in this context is still a huge gray area…at least for me.

I was recently inquiring a contact at a great DI college sports performance program about this same issue, and when mentioning opposite side medicine ball throws to help “manage” imbalances, she brought up some valid points.  How much do you do?  For how long and at what intensity?  At what time of the year?  I do not have an in-depth answer to these questions (nor will I in any near future), but I do believe that having some kind of plan is possible and is better than doing nothing.

I recall reading a study that college softball players’ injuries are actually the highest during pre-season training (not in-season).  This does make some sense in that they are really ramping up their practice volume.  More throwing, more swinging, more sprinting, plus all of the other physical (and mental) stress they’re getting in the weight room and in school.  Do their asymmetries become exaggerated a bit more during such an increase of rotating volume?  Even if you haven’t done any opposite side rotating work with your team up to this point, I think this becomes necessary from a cost-benefit standpoint.  In other words, it’s worth taking some time to try to “manage” their asymmetries.  How much volume?  How much intensity?  How often?  Those are yet to be answered, but at least we are being proactive and doing something instead of nothing.  Keep in mind the athletes will still get some training benefit anyway by doing the med ball throws, even if they’re opposite-side throws.  In the recent past I’ve scratched (or really limited) the same-side throws in favor of opposite-side throws during the pre-season phase.

Additionally, the postural restoration institute has some interesting breathing and active stretching resources for baseball players, who of course have the same asymmetries as softball players.  This could be one way to “manage” the asymmetry as well (again, I highly doubt it would correct it, but remember that’s a good thing).  I have messed around with some PRI stuff just for the heck of it, but didn’t measure anything.

Finally, if you’re really ambitious, I suppose one way to see what might work and what might not is data collection.  Get their shoulder mobility measurement (who cares about the score for this comparison, just get the inches between each fist) and see if or how it changes during pre-season, in-season, and during your “management.”  You could even split the team in half for a control group.  Maybe that will be a goal of mine this next year, however there is so much more to learn in this context that again, I’d rather stay proactive instead of just leaving things up to chance.

See my next article of this “two-part-series,” When Do You Stop Assessing?

 

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