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Youth Athletic Assessments and Why it's Needed

Sports Physicals are just not enough anymore.

It is important for youth athletes to be screened before they start a sport. This way, they can identify any injuries or weaknesses that might cause them to have an injury later on. A sports physical may not always identify these things, which is why it is important for youth athletes to have a functional movement screen and agility test as well.

Athletes need more than just a sports physical to prepare for competition. They also need functional movement screening, agility tests, and other injury prevention measures to make sure they are safe when they play their sport. The sports physical is commonly performed by a sports medicine physician, physical therapist, family doctor or even some chiropractors.

The screen is typically done before the athlete begins participation in any sport. Physicals are also performed to reaffirm fitness for competitive athletes and to assess for medical conditions that might make an athlete ineligible for participation in certain competitions which is extremely valuable; however, it does not correlate the demands of the sport.

Athletes are at an increased risk of injury because they are more susceptible to overuse injuries. Functional movement screenings help identify areas of weakness and identify the athlete's risk for injury. This can be done by assessing the athlete's movement patterns, strength, flexibility, and balance.

The FMS was originally developed by physical therapists, but has evolved into a tool that is now used by coaches and trainers. It can be used as a way to identify an athlete's strengths and weaknesses in order to create an individualized plan for training, rehabilitation and performance.

The screening process is designed to identify potential problems before they happen so that athletes can get treatment before it's too late. When a functional movement screen is administered, a client-specific plan will be created to address any issues found in the screening process.

Due to the nature of kids always growing, it's also important to take into consideration of height and athletic maturity. Tendons, ligaments and bone structures move and change as they grow and should be periodically re-assessed.

"Movement proficiency is a key indicator on increased injury risk and decreased performance" - James Walsh

There are seven foundational movement patterns that all of these movements stem from.

The first pattern, the sagittal plane, is characterized by two-dimensional movements (forward and backward). The frontal plane is characterized by linear movements (left and right). The transverse plane is characterized by circular motions (up and down). Finally, the rotational plane is characterized by turning motions in three dimensions.

Each of these planes has its own set of basic movement patterns: forward reach pattern, lateral reach pattern, rotation pattern, lateral rotation pattern, flexion-extension pattern and axial rotation pattern.

These movement lead us to seven foundational movement patterns are the fundamental building blocks of human movement.

  • -Squatting

  • -Lunging

  • -Pushing

  • -Pulling

  • -Hinging

  • -Twisting

  • -Gait

Although, you may believe that youth athletes may not need assessments or strength train due to the common myth of "stunting growth." This is completely false, "Children can improve strength by 30% to 50% after just 8 to 12 weeks of a well-designed strength training program. Youth need to continue to train at least 2 times per week to maintain strength. The case reports of injuries related to strength training, including epiphyseal plate fractures and lower back injuries, are primarily attributed to the misuse of equipment, inappropriate weight, improper technique, or lack of qualified adult supervision."

The ability to hinge and laterally move is directly correlated with agility and increased performance.

Here is an example of a Dowel Rod Hip Hinge Test, the goal is to maintain 3 points of contact on the spine, the head, mid back and glutes.

We have been providing Jacksonville and Fleming Island, FL youth athletic assessments by appointment only and a one time fee; however, we are doing a free introduction to athletic assessment at our Jacksonville West location in preparation for the summer.


Dahab, Katherine Stabenow, and Teri Metcalf McCambridge. “Strength training in children and adolescents: raising the bar for young athletes?.” Sports health vol. 1,3 (2009): 223-6. doi:10.1177/1941738109334215

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