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Functional Movement screening might be a better assessment of total fitness.

published: 09-13-2010

Are PRTs still accurate assessments of physical fitness levels?  The days of calisthenics and running several miles for exercise are gone. Comfort Zones and gyms on- or off-base are filled with exercise toys such as cable cross machines, Roman benches, kettlebells, and miles of cardiovascular equipment. Most military personnel are exercising with the latest technology, or at least with free weights. Shouldn’t PRTs utilize the most current knowledge of functional exercise and movement?

“Functional movement” is defined as real-world biomechanics of body movement. Sit-ups and push-ups are not functional; they show strength and/or flexibility, but not true overall fitness.

Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screening (FMS), however, assesses the quality of seven functional movements to determine a persons’ symmetry, grading each movement (21 being a perfect score). FMS might be a better assessment in terms of a person’s total fitness level. Most studies using FMS have evaluated the prediction of injury rates based on the level of symmetry (for example: Military Joe shows rotary stability in the left shoulder but not in the right – the asymmetry of his shoulders most likely predicts injury when climbing walls in theater).

An unpublished study by COL Francis O’Connor, MD on injury prediction in Marine Corps Officer candidates (MC) found that those who scored 14 or higher (out of 21) had a lower injury rate. A study on NFL players also had similar findings.

Should the military re-evaluate its PRTs in terms of functional movement or should it stay with its current program? Contact us here at the HPRC if you have thoughts to share.