The Importance of Musculoskeletal Screening

Finals time for most winter sports is fast approaching and from a physiotherapy perspective this is the time of year that we see a spike in sporting injuries. A lot of these injuries tend to be to parts of the body that have some sort of deficit, be it strength, length or control. It is quite hard to be able to identify these areas yourself and even physiotherapists would find it hard to accurate identify these deficits purely through observation.

This is why screening is so widely utilised for athletes from amateur to elite. Screening usually involves a battery of tests that give objective measurements that are then compared to the normal values for an athlete in a specific sport. Screening can also involve questionnaires that focus on general health and previous injury history.

An article by Sanders, Blackburn and Boucher (2013), looked at the use of pre-participation physicals (PPE) for athletic participation. They found PPE’s to be useful, comprehensive and cost effective. They explained that PPE’s can be modified to meet the major objectives of identification of athletes at risk.

An article by Maffey and Emery (2006) looked at the ability of pre-participation examinations to contribute to identifying risk factors for injury. They found limited evidence for examinations in terms of the ability to reduce injury rates among athletes. However, they were effective in the identification of previous injury (such as ankle sprains) and providing appropriate prevention strategies (such as balance training). From this it has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent injury. It may also be useful in identifying known risk factors which can be addressed by specific injury prevention interventions.

An example of a screening measure that is typically used in screening protocols includes a knee to wall test (KTW). This test is used for ankle dorsiflexion as well as soleus muscle length (one of your calf muscles). The test is performed using a ruler which is placed perpendicular to a wall with no skirting board. The athlete puts their foot flat on the ground next to the ruler and as far from the wall as possible as long as their knee is touching the wall. Distance from the wall to the end of the big toe is noted by looking at the ruler. An example of a normal distance for netball players is greater than 15cm on each side.

Here at East Vic Park Physiotherapy we have developed a number of specific musculoskeletal screens for a variety of sports including netball, running, swimming and throwing sports. They comprehensively identify the key risk factors that are seen in injuries sustained in each sport. If you are interested in preventing injury for the upcoming sports season, then contact the clinic on 9361 3777 and book your screening appointment today!