As a physical therapist, I have been trained to watch how people move. And I truly enjoy it. When I?m running a race, I get myself through the miles by watching for the discrepancies in the gate of the person ahead of me. When I?m at a ball game, I inevitably find myself looking for mechanical changes that may set an athlete up for an injury.

At a high school athlete’s physical they check height, weight, blood pressure and heart rate, all very important vital signs. However, athlete’s by nature, move. I believe every athlete should go through a movement screen along with their preseason physical in addition to checking the regular vital signs. If we don’t screen how an athlete moves, we are doing them a serious disservice and setting them up for potential harm.

A movement screen is an essential part of any athlete’s sports career. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) was created in the 1990’s by Gray Cook, MSPT, OCS, CSCS. It is a compilation of 7 different activities that assess movement quality and motor control. The screening can show faults in mobility that will inhibit good play this will provide the training and coaching staff with the information needed to have a more focused training regime, helping an athlete improve performance. Because FMS is a standardized tool that assesses an athlete’s readiness to participate and where their inconsistencies lie, it will help the strength staff and coaching staff create a streamlined training plan tailored for each athlete. The FMS has also been shown to be a good predictor of the potential for injury.

The seven tests in the FMS include a deep squat, hurdle step, inline lunge, active straight leg raise, shoulder mobility, rotary stability, and a pushup. These tests assess the athlete’s functional range of motion as well as their available stability in ways that mimic what an athlete does on the field. Using the FMS and making corrections to the limitations it identifies can not only prevent an injury, it can also promote better movement and set an athlete up for even greater success. This may involve something as simple as adding one exercise to a warm up routine.

As the preseason for fall sports nears, I challenge all coaches to ask for a Functional Movement Screen to be included in each of the preseason physicals. If your school Athletic Trainer or school nurse is not trained in the FMS, find a local strength and conditioning coach or physical therapist to perform the screen. Adding the correct exercises to make your athletes stronger will have tremendous effects on your team’s overall performance.


Laura Tidd Turner, PT

Director, South County Physical Therapy