What is functional movement screening?

Top Kona age-grouper and physiotherapist Alison Wilson explains the benefits of functional movement screening and why it is beneficial to triathletes

Credit: Alison Wilson

Triathletes are constantly striving to become faster, fitter and stronger. We push ourselves to the limit and perform high-level activities, and expect our bodies to cope with the demands we place upon them. But what happens when those demands exceed the body’s capabilities? In other words, what happens when we can no longer take it? In short, we get injured.


What is a physiotherapist and what do they do?

Part of the reason injuries happen is that many of us perform high-level activities, even though we’re inefficient in our fundamental movements. These fundamental movements are the building blocks of complex movement, and it’s important to get the basics right if we’re going to be able to perform them at a high level.

We may half-heartedly acknowledge these weaknesses or restrictions in our movement, but don’t often train to improve them. Instead we train around them, focussing on our strengths and ingraining poor movement patterns that hinder us long-term. You need to consider if your training is contributing to your performance, or is it actually contributing to an eventual injury.

What is functional movement screen test?

A movement screen analyses your fundamental movement patterns to identify any weak links in your movement competency (the ability to move free of dysfunction or pain). Identifying them allows you to work on correcting them and, in so doing, reducing your risk of injury and, eventually, enhancing your performance. The outcome of a movement screen gives you an opportunity to improve your movement competency; in other words it provides an athlete with an insight into their movements and a course of corrective strategies to control them.

Based on human anatomy, strength and conditioning principles, human biomechanics, physics, sports performance and sports medicine, practitioners are able to detect areas that may predispose you to certain injuries (demonstrated in research by Hewett et al. in 2015 and Myer et al. in 2010). With movement screen information you can explore the potential reasons for any apparent movement incompetency and get an understanding of how your movement competency may respond to a change in exercise, such as an increase in volume, intensity or load. It can also be used as a performance-enhancing tool, identifying which patterns can be more aggressively loaded and which require more development before they can be increased.


Alison Wilson was Great Britain’s fastest female age-group athlete at Kona 2016 and is a physiotherapist working for Body In Motion, High Performance Sport (in New Zealand). She takes a special interest in elite sports and adolescent sports injury management.

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