Ryan Cross, Physiotherapist

The risk of injury is present in all sports and activities.  The cause of injury can sometimes be difficult to pin point because in most cases it is multifactorial.  There are many reasons that can lead to the onset of sports injuries, making prevention of injury challenging.  If there are ways to predict which factors lead to injury, there will be a better chance of preventing injury in the first place.  Research published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy studied professional football players and used their scores on a functional movement screen to predict injury (Kiesel, 2007).  A cut off score was determined that indicates if an athlete is at an increased likelihood of injury. 

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The Study

The researchers used data from a professional football team that assesses each player performing The Functional Movement Screen at the beginning of the season.  The Functional Movement Screen is a comprehensive exam that evaluates the quality of fundamental movement patterns to determine an individual’s limitations or asymmetries (Kiesel, 2007). Seven movement patterns are assessed and each is given a score of 0-3, with the scores being totaled to give an overall score.  The types of injuries were not specified, but injuries that resulted in the athlete being unable to return for 3 games were used for the data.  The data was calculated to determine a cut off score that indicated an increased likelihood of injury and how much the probability of injury is increased.

The Results

It was shown that if a player scored 14 or less on The Functional Movement Screen, it was associated with an increased likelihood of injury. The data show that this score is highly specific for predicting an injury.  Higher specificity increases the ability to use the test to recognize when the disorder is present.  In addition to identifying a cut off score for predicting injury, it was also calculated that a score of 14 or less was associated with an 11-fold increased chance of injury (Kiesel, 2007). 


Functional movement patterns are important for everyday life as well as athletic performance.  These patterns aren’t always assessed formally, but this research shows that using a tool that assesses functional movement, such as The Functional Movement Screen, can help identify the potential for injury.  Functional movement testing tools can help identify areas of limited flexibility, strength, or balance that can then be used to develop an individualized training program.  A training program that is specific to the person can help prevent injuries.  Functional movement testing can identify the risk of injury and a plan to address that risk. 

Related Article: Are CrossFitters Prone to Injury? | The Answer May Surprise you


Kiesel, Kyle, Phillip J. Plisky, and Michael L. Voight. “Can serious injury in professional football be predicted by a preseason functional movement screen?.” North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT 2.3 (2007): 147.

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