Jan 29, 2015
Red Flagging “Dysfunction”

By Vern Gambetta

I am tired of hearing about red flags and dysfunctions. Why is something a red flag or a dysfunction? Watch what happens when the athlete gets up and actually moves–it is amazing how many of the red flags disappear and the supposed dysfunctions discovered in isolated artificial movements smooth out. If there is pain or discomfort they will tell you. If you feel you have to look for red flags, do so when the athlete is actually moving within the structure of their sport. Evaluate movements just like you train movements.

Our job as coaches, therapists and ATCs is to get the athlete moving as efficiently as possible not to segment and robotize. Chances are, if there is a deficiency it will scream out at you. A truly functional movement screen will have the body move through and in postures that are similar to the postures in actual performance, executing movements that work with or against gravity. It must give some information on how the athlete uses the ground and how they reduce force and dynamically stabilize.

There is no universal movement screen. I believe that you must have a screen that is specific to the movements of the sport or at the very least for categories of sports. For example, a movement screen for throwing sports would have different elements than would an evaluation for a running sports. One size does not fit all.

Vern Gambetta-120x180.jpgIf you are intrigued by the thoughts of veteran conditioning coach Vern Gambetta, you will want a copy of his exciting new book, Following the Functional Path: Building and Rebuilding the Athlete.

Incorporate movements like bending, extending, reaching, pulling, and pushing. This will give you information you can then translate into the training and performance environment. Don’t look for what the athlete can’t do, look for what they can do and use that as a starting point for the training progression. Beware of confirmation bias–you find what you are looking for.

Realize that it is our job to get the athlete ready for the rigors of competition by training them to be as adaptable as possible to the demands of their sport. You don’t do that by focusing on what the athlete can’t do and fixing supposed dysfunctions through corrective exercise.

All exercise should be corrective to a degree if you use proper progression. Corrective exercise and injury prevention should be a transparent part of a sound training program. I have said for years that Training = Rehab and Rehab = Training.

I will end with two questions: If what is going on today in MLB, NFL, and NBA is so good then why are preventable injuries off the scale? Is it because we are looking so hard at dysfunctions and prevention that we are compromising training and preparation?

Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog. To purchase a book containing a collection of his writings, click here.

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