Injuries among young athletes possibly avoided with exercise philosophy

By MATTHEW CASON

The pain of injuries in younger athletes can be curtailed with an exercise philosophy being used at the college and professional levels.

The Loyola University Medical Center presented a study in October 2013 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Fla., showing that in a study of 1,200 athletes, ages 18 and below, the three highest occurring injuries among athletes were knee injuries at 31.1 percent, ankle injuries at 16 percent, and lower-back injuries at 15.1 percent.

One of the reasons for this result, according to doctors conducting the study, is specializing in a single sport for lengthy periods of time before and during adolescence. It also stated that the rate of overall injury stays the same even when controlling the factors of an athlete’s age, as well as hours per week of sports activity.

The popular consensus for most health centers involves cutting back from participation and give the body part rest. Yet once an athlete starts back up with their original rate of activity without treatment, injury for the area is still likely to occur. A prominent example of this occurring is with knee injuries. Knee injuries can still occur in people who give the body part rest due to incorrect hip function, incorrect foot function, weak muscles in the hip, and an imbalance between muscles of the leg.

According to Dr. Jessie Sharp, a physical therapist working at Marietta, Ga.-based Physioedge, the main cause for these injuries is bad biomechanics.

“They are not stable enough to do very basic motions, then they load them with weight or speed and that is where the injuries happen,” said Sharp. “People don’t know how to move and they can’t see themselves move while they practice these moves, which leads them to do it incorrectly.”

However, professional and college teams have been able to establish preventative measures through an exercise philosophy known as Functional Movement Systems.

According to functionalmovement.com, the official site for FMS, the system was first developed by Gray Cook and Lee Burton as a way to gather objective data for statistical analysis of human movement patterns with respect to functional performance and injury prevention. Instructors put athletes through a series of tests that simulate athletic movements and stretches done in game situations. During the screening of these movements, physicians and trainers can readily identify functional limitations and asymmetries. Athletes are graded on a scale to 21, with any grade of 14 or below being considered as having a high-risk of injury. Based on the results highlighting the imbalanced areas, trainers and physicians can create a workout plan with the most beneficial corrective exercises, based on individual FMS scores, to restore a person’s movement pattern.

I was able to take part in an FMS screening over at Physioedge physical therapy under the supervision of Sharp. With an active lifestyle of weightlifting, softball and eating habit that can be considered healthy for the average male, it was surprising to see that my test result ended up labeling as being at a high risk for injury, scoring just a 14 on the scale. The data accumulated was fascinating to me when I considered the work I put into my body compared to the work put into the college and pro athlete by the training staff in order to keep them on the playing field.

Chris Archambeault, an associate athletic trainer at Kennesaw State University and certified FMS instructor, has been using the system in testing college athletes for the past four years. The data accumulated through the system’s screenings has allowed him to create appropriate workout plans for his athletes that strengthen the deficient areas on each respective athlete that is brought to attention by the screening.

When speaking to Archambeault about the FMS program, he spoke of an athlete that he tested who was unable to do a full squat prior to his first screening. The results of the screening allowed Archambeault to see what areas needed strengthening for the athlete.

“By implementing the skills of FMS, we tested him again and ended up testing a 16, he went from being unable to do a full squat to doing a front squat of 225. He increased his max by 135 lbs in three weeks once he started doing his functional movement exercises,” said Archambeault.

The FMS program is mainstream among professional teams, college athletic programs, and other organizations since its creation in 1995. It can soon find a place among the amateur ranks in sports. With the popularity of travel leagues and parents willing to spend money to put their children among the top tier athletes, many are resorting to having kids use high-class trainers and performance training centers in order to get an edge among other athletes in their group. The screening is also a great chance for keeping the bright young athletes healthy with the vigorous travel sport schedule that they must endure.

A majority of travel baseball teams could roughly play about 60 games a season, with many playing about four games in a weekend while elite teams played up to six or seven in a three day span. The wear and tear that can be done to a young adolescent body has prevented many young talents from reaching their dreams of playing professionally when their body gives out physically at the high school level. With the inclusion of FMS in the workout of the travelling athlete, the damage done to the body can be reduced.

“It should become more mainstream, especially since overuse injuries are increasing in numbers. As a physical therapist, we see a lot of athletes who have pain in a distal joint, but it’s because of poor proximal stabilization such as in breathing, core and pelvic floor,” said Sharp. Archambeault felt that it definitely has a place in sports. “I think it definitely has a place. I don’t know if it has to be FMS, but I think all programs need to have some sort of athletic screening so you can see what the limits are for players before they work out and to make sure they are using proper form in the weight room.”

According to Sharp, with the small pod of data that can be given from an FMS screening, personal trainers and physical therapists can likely use this data to track and curb the warning signs of future injuries in athletes. Kimberly Witkowski, a physical therapist at Mariners Physical Therapy and mentioned on rehabpub.com, estimated that among the 30 million children participating in youth sport, more than 3.5 million will experience some type of injury each year. Although injuries from external factors are still likely to occur, the understanding of biomechanics in the human body has reached new levels in the prevention of injuries that were previously unseen 20 years ago.

It is curious to see if FMS can expand into the amateur ranks. According to Archambeault, time is a big factor when implementing FMS in the training programs of athletes.

“When you look at a large quantity of athletes, it is hard to get everyone in there and on the same program. So your score might be different from another person’s or my movements might not be the same as your movements,” said Archambeault, “though I may score similarly to your test, my dysfunctions may be different from what you have so I will have make a specific for you or for me.”

If the FMS system hopes to get into amateur athletics, it will require the dedication of trainers to get certified and band together to spread the philosophy of FMS into the training programs of amateur athletes.

With the revenue being generated in the industry of youth and high school sports, the FMS program seems to be a stepping stone in the preparation of the faster, stronger athlete without having the nuances of injuries interfering with the growth process.

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