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Movement Screens: The Good, The Bad and Are They Necessary?

If you have been a coach or involved in the sports performance world for any length of time, you know the debate around movement screens is one of the hot button topics in the field of sports performance. Many coaches are entrenched on one side of the debate or the other, but the great coaches realize there is always a middle ground; so long as you know how to employ them and what it is you are looking for.

Looking to base their screens on settled science, many businesses built their screens around the medical model of rehabilitation. The issue with this, is that coaches are using screens with this rehabilitation skewed lens and project that onto relatively healthy clients and athletes. Some of those individuals rely on asymmetry to be exceptional at what they do, and at times, these screens can lead to correcting a “problem” that wasn’t there to begin with.

First, let’s talk about what a movement screen is and maybe more importantly, what a movement screen is not.

A movement screen is simply a way to analyze or observe movement patterns and how they relate to mobility, stability and strength deficits within an individual. Movement screening can be instrumental in dictating what direction a coach should start out with a new client or where to pick back up with a returning client or athlete after a season or time away. Here are some benefits to a movement screen:

  1. Give the coach direction on where to take a program
  2. Help to ensure program syncs up with clients current ability and goals
  3. Provide a repeatable system of client intake and planning
  4. Give some baseline data for the coach to monitor progress/efficiency
  5. Can be a good starting point for developing a strong client relationship

The above should sound like a common sense approach to client intake, retention and an overall good strategy for developing sound programming techniques. So, why then is there such a harsh push back on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to movement screens and their usage?

A movement screen is NOT a predictor of injury and there is no perfect screen for every individual.

Too often movement screens have been sold with the premise that they will identify weak points/movements and areas prone or susceptible to injury. This is one of the major reasons certain coaches have an issue with certain movement screens that over promise based on this unpredictable future event. Let’s look at a few other cons related to movement screens:

  1. If the screen is overused, athletes/clients can start to strategize to do well in the screen.
  2. Certain movements are labeled as “bad” and can create a fear around a movement pattern.
  3. It takes time and many repetitions to really know how to implement them and what you are looking at.
  4. Are you measuring what really matters, or just doing a screen because it seems like the thing to do? More importantly, can you act on what you are measuring?
  5. Become too entrenched by using one screen and not able to adjust or modify based on the client in front of them.
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So, now what?!

In the end, movement screening is an essential part of coaching and figuring out the best way to design a program based on the individual client in front of you. However, you may not need to pick one screen and adhere to it for life. Every coach or facility has their own style and training protocols so the screen should be in alignment with those, otherwise you are screening just to screen. As a coach progresses in their career and their coaching eye evolves, the movement screen should evolve as well. Every coach needs a starting point with an athlete, so develop a screen that gives you the information you need, that you can replicate and that you can scale. After that, don’t overuse the screen to the point where your athlete/client can fake their success. More importantly, develop your coaching eye so that every session you are performing a visual screen on your clients from the second they walk in so that you can make the minor adjustments daily in order to ensure their success while in the facility with you!

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