When treating athletic injuries, most health care providers do not evaluate the athlete from a structural or functional standpoint. The typical approach when an athlete or patient is injured, is to provide treatment just to remove the symptoms, such as neck pain or back pain, and not figure out the cause. Most high-level athletes have strength and conditioning coaches who teach techniques to address issues such as power, speed, and strength, but a functional evaluation checking for movement inefficiencies is typically not performed. Until an athlete or patient is evaluated by a functional exam, that uncovers abnormal movement patterns, injuries will not be prevented or treated correctly. Ideally, detecting abnormal movement patterns will become common place in sports medicine. When a functional evaluation is combined with a chiropractic exam, unbalanced or abnormal muscle function and areas of muscular and joint dysfunction can be detected and corrected.

Movement efficiency is key to injury prevention, performance enhancement and full recovery from athletic injuries. When we talk about movement efficiency, we are referring to components such as: Balance, Core strength, Dynamic flexibility (being strong and mobile), Functional strength (strength through a full range of motion), Reactive neuromuscular control (proper communication and coordinated movements between the nervous system and muscular system), and normal joint motion.

Some common examples of movement inefficiencies would be an inward buckling of the knee (valgus deformity) and decreased upward movement of the foot (dorsiflexion) with squatting or performing a lunge movement. (1) Another common movement inefficiency is decreased hip internal rotation (inward movement of the femur or thigh) when performing twisting or rotational movements, which causes the low back to be required to turn more to make up for the decreased hip motion. These abnormal movement patterns can result in lower extremity pain and injury as well as back pain and/or injury. These faulty motion patterns can also predispose an athlete to break down and possibly incur an injury if not detected and treated.

An example of a functional evaluation that detects movement inefficiencies and muscular imbalance would be a system developed by Fusionetics. Below is the typical movement patterns performed in a Fusionetics evalution:

The abnormal movement patterns detected by the Fusionetics evaluation are recorded and fed into a database that creates a specific set of corrective exercises. When this type of evaluation is coupled with a chiropractic exam incorporating not only orthopedic and neurological testing, but also evaluating for abnormal joint motion, a complete program of sports medicine rehabilitation can be initiated.

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(1) Am J Sports Med. 2005 Apr;33(4):492-501. Epub 2005 Feb 8.
Biomechanical measures of neuromuscular control and valgus loading of the knee predict anterior cruciate ligament injury risk in female athletes: a prospective study.

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