Vail Daily health feature: Functional Movement Screens move every body toward injury prevention
Special to the Daily
Assess your movement
Both Minturn Fitness Center (970-790-5090) and Movement Physical Therapy (970-926-0767) offer the Functional Movement Screen, a series of exercises that provide a quantifiable way to evaluate movement patterns and abilities. Goat Training’s class schedule is listed online at goattraining.com.
There comes a point in every winter season when injuries become as ubiquitous to mountain athletes as checking the Blue Sky snow stake. Be it chronic or catastrophic, injury seems to be a widely accepted part of any season, although many local human-performance specialists argue that a larger part of the equation of injury prevention is identifying areas of compromised movement.
Every body is different, and in that same sense, the training many put in to ready themselves for a season on the mountain should be different, as well.
A commonly overlooked piece of the puzzle, in terms of injury prevention, is correct movement patterns. While there are benefits to working on strength and conditioning, the backbone of such work should be screening to identify areas of weakness unique to individual movement patterns, said Scott Wacker, of Movement Physical Therapy in Edwards.
Wacker has spent much of his career working in this niche of physical therapy and is presently the only physical therapist in the area certified with advanced-level training in Functional Movement Screens and the Selective Functional Movement Assessments.
Wacker said that even 10 years ago, movement assessment was simply an unknown part of human performance, but it now provides unique information about an individual’s patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Movement assessment is currently an incorporated piece of training programs for the National Football League, ski racers and the draft process for the National Hockey League.
“Think of it like a dental screening,” Wacker said. “You have your teeth looked at to see what is unique to your dental health and how to prevent bigger problems from occurring down the road. Movement screenings are similar; we screen for individual’s strengths and weaknesses and incorporate exercises unique to the individual to help correct those imbalances.”
John “J.C.” Cole, human performance director at Minturn Fitness Center, embraces a similar philosophy that targets better movement through space first, before implementing strength and conditioning exercises. This focus on bodily movement, including areas of correct movement patterns and improving range of motion, is one that increases injury prevention, specifically for winter athletes.
“If you find yourself in a body position that is outside that trained range of motion (on skis, for example), your injury risk increases exponentially,” Cole said. “An athlete with a larger range of motion can produce more force within that range of motion and allow for ‘room to recover’ from poor body position.”
A critical part of this increased range of motion, Cole said, is identifying weakness in movement patterns and correcting these patterns through exercises that help strengthen key muscle groups and increase mobility.
Another crucial puzzle piece of promoting injury prevention is conditioning, which is often the next step in a training program once deficiencies in movement are addressed. Fatigue is a major factor of on-mountain injury; tired bodies lead to sloppiness in form, which then translates into mistakes that can result in catastrophic injury or be realized in the form of nagging pain.
“Fatigue can lead to a loss in body tension, which then leads to a breakdown of form,” said John Mark Seelig, of Goat Training in Edwards.
Seelig argued that it’s these moments when form deteriorates that lead to injury, be it catching an edge and landing awkwardly or compromised body posture so that aches and pains begin to present themselves.
“People seem to have this idea that they are going to keep pushing until they wreck themselves,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Wacker similarly agrees that while developing correct movement patterns helps with range of motion and developing a conditioning program to prevent the onset of fatigue when performing mountain athletics, the same principles can be applied to improving body efficiency when performing daily tasks.
“Sitting at a desk for hours every day contributes to compromised movement patterns or limited mobility, and by determining these areas, we can improve body efficiency,” Wacker said.
These compromised movements during everyday motions are typically brushed off as having bad knees or a bad back, but in fact, often result from decreased range of motion due to incorrect movement patterns.
“We don’t come with an owner’s manual, but nowadays, we have ways to assess deficiencies in order to incorporate appropriate strength and conditioning programs for overall better movement,” Wacker said.
The options vary in size, cost and modernity from up-valley to down-valley.