Pre-season Screening: Are we looking for numbers?
There are 3 main aims of pre-season testing within sports:
1) Injury prevention
2) Performance parameter testing – strength, power, endurance
3) Getting numbers!
No matter which sport you are involved with, pre-season is hard for players, coaches and staff alike. From a Physio point of view there are a number of tests for range of movement, strength, stability etc and from an S&C stand point there are gym based and game based tests of the many different physical parameters.
I do not think there is an easy way of going through this process as there is little research validating specific screens, tests, equipment etc. In my experience what tends to happen is a carpet-bombing approach of getting numbers for as many different parts of the body as possible and hoping that something sticks!
Many of the muscle testing procedures can be found in research articles in an attempt to make it the gold standard of evidence based! This gives us numbers on how much force that particular muscle can produce in the position that is tested, but the question that needs to be asked is; does this carryover to how the muscle works in the sport/event? The answer generally is NO.
A great example of this is the adductor squeeze test using a hand held dynamometer. This is testing the isolated movement of adduction, but there is a large amount of research showing that Adductor Magnus in particular is most proficient in flexion and extension. So does testing adduction strength have any relationship to squatting or running??
In my humble opinion I believe that pre-season screening should focus on testing the movements required for the sport or gym, rather than gathering as many numbers as possible. I also greatly question the use of passive range testing and instead would focus on active of motion and control around that joint. Testing such as www.1080map.com gives a 3 dimensional picture of movement that forms a useful part of any athlete testing protocol.
The argument of “well it gives us numbers!” is not the most convincing and we need to question the relevance and specificity of these numbers to the athlete and the sport.
Does a good score in this test have any relevance to my players performance on the playing field?