Nov 30, 2017
A New Use

Force plates aren’t just for evaluating the lower body anymore. A new approach has them being used for shoulder strength assessments, as well.

According to an article from, a company called ForceDecks is leading the way with this innovative line of thinking. The primary use for ForceDecks’ technology is a shoulder evaluation that targets injury monitoring and fatigue.

“It’s trying to catch an early warning if there’s been a maladaptation that would affect performance and, ultimately, could be a risk factor as well in terms of injury,” Daniel Cohen, PhD, Sport Scientist at the University of Santander in Columbia and founder of ForceDecks, said. “There’s some very exciting stuff coming out to provide the upper body with a bit of love.”

The force plates allow practitioners to make evaluations of load transfer across the shoulder girdle. The assessment involves three positions, all of which require the athlete to lie face-down on the floor. In the first position, they make an upper-case “I” with their body by raising their arm over their head. Second, the arm is positioned at an angle, making a “Y”. Finally, the arm is placed out to the side, making a “T.”

For each position, the athlete presses down quickly and firmly on a force plate for 20-second intervals. This allows the plate to gauge the acceleration and deceleration, as well as the amount of force that is being exerted.

“We just know what we want is a test that could identify differences in force production and also in terms of the rate of force development, which is the key to the test,” said Ben Ashworth, MS, Physiotherapist at Arsenal FC and creator of the ForceDecks assessment. “That’s the bit that’s really the gold. Athletes can produce force slowly, but it’s nowhere near the meaningful actions of their sport and also nowhere near the kind of fast ability to protect their joint against injury. It’s pointless being strong without having that power and that speed element. That was a pretty easy link to make with any sport that uses the upper-limb dominance that transfers force from the trunk and the ground up through the arm.”

So far, the test has been used with athletes from a variety of sports, including football, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. It was even introduced in the Houston Astros minor league system during the 2017 season.

By performing a minimum of 20 assessments over time, the ForceDecks approach allows a meaningful baseline to be gathered. This will allow practitioners to evaluate chronic and acute fatigue — which may help with pinpointing athletes who are at risk of injuring themselves.

“It’s not a question of trying to wrap people up in cotton wool,” Ashworth said. “Sometimes it’s a case of using the test to enable you to go to the coach and say, ‘Yeah, go again. This guy’s ready. He’s robust and can tolerate this.'”

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