May 22, 2015 Nigel Morgan

Movement Screening. Why bother?

Strength and conditioning and CrossFit are sports that provide participants with significant improvements in strength, mobility, confidence, aesthetic gains, performance gains and improvement in almost all health markers1. Coming from a Physiotherapy and Exercise Physiology background, I cannot begin to emphasize the importance of people participating in such sports in an age where chronic disease and sedentary behavior is rampant.

However, with the number of people participating in strength and conditioning sports and CrossFit booming, so is the number of musculoskeletal injuries attending physiotherapy practices. In two recent studies looking at injury prevalence in individuals participating in CrossFit, the injury rate was reportedly 20 -73%! 2,3. This rate is similar in weightlifting, powerlifting and gymnastics3. Quite often, this has a lot to do with the individual beginning a training regime without being aware of underlying asymmetry or poor functional movement patterns. These mechanical inefficiencies are then loaded with external weight as the individual attempts to achieve their training goals which further entrenching these dysfunctions into their neurological and myofascial systems, and chip away with progressive micro-trauma and overuse to ligaments, tendons and joints4. Speed, power, strength, endurance and skill must be developed from a base of mechanical efficiency.

Movement screening involves an assessment of movement quality and can be used in both asymptomatic (those without pain/stiffness) individuals and individuals with current injuries. The purpose is to identify limiting factors (tightness, restrictions, poor motor patterns and poor motor control) and the usual accompanying compensations that may lead to potential injury or be driving a current injury5,6.

Now, there is a difference between performance based assessments where obtaining a qualitative measure of reps/ time/ weight is used to determine a person’s baseline starting point, and movement based assessments where the quality of movement then guides the rehab professional to look deeper to find specific structural anomalies or pathology. An example of this may be an overhead pressing movement. A performance based assessment may look at the weight an individual can lift for a 3 repetitions maximum (3RM) or the number of repetitions and individual can perform in a pre-determined period of time. A movement based assessment may determine that the individual is lacking shoulder flexion motion due to muscular tightness (e.g. pec minor, subscapularis, latissimus dorsi) and therefore to achieve the correct overhead position they have to compensate by increasing the lumber lordosis (i.e. lack of segmental dissociation). Over time this causes increased loading of the lumbar spine joints which may manifest and a niggling ache in the lower back.

The above example demonstrates how functional movement deficits limit efficiency of movement and increase the risk of injury. Identifying limiting factors through movement screening reduces compensations that lead to overuse or traumatic injury, and ensures correct movement patterning into the nervous and myofascial systems. With repetition of a particular motor pattern, the nervous system then stores this pattern in the long term memory as a motor schema therefore requiring less cognitive effort to perform the movement and freeing up brain space to focus on other aspects during the movement i.e. speed. This highlights the importance of developing optimal movement patterns.

At President Physiotherapy we work with your coach or personal trainer by providing a report of your movement assessment and work collaboratively on areas of weakness to keep you in the gym and lifting, running, pushing and pulling harder! If you are a beginner looking at starting a new training program or an advanced trainee/ competitor wanting to minimize your risk of injury heading into a heavy training cycle etc. our movement screening process will keep you achieve you training goals in an injury free way!


  • Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 2012, 11(4), 209–216
  • Injury Rate and Patterns Among CrossFit Athletes, Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 2014, 2(4)
  • The nature and prevalence of injury during CrossFit training, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2013
  • Injury resilience – let’s control what can be controlled, Br J Sports Med, 2011, 45, 684-685
  • Preseason strength and flexibility imbalances associated with athletic injuries in female collegiate athletes. Am J Sports Med. 1991, 19, 76-81
  • Can injury in major junior hockey players be predicted by a pre-season functional movement screen – a prospective cohort study, J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2014, 58(4), 421–427.