Monday, May 25, 2015

Application of Movement Assessment to the Ultimate Sport: MMA

In our last blog “Does Movement Assessment Really Tell You Anything?” we discussed what a good movement assessment tells you and how you can use this information to reduce injury risk and improve athletic performance.  The pictures we provide are were actual case studies and subjects from our research and really seemed to bring this subject home for a lot of readers.  Once people see the movement, it just makes sense.  This blog in particular stirred up a lot of questions about the Movement Assessment we use in particular and its application to sport.  During some our recent courses across the US and abroad, we have been repeatedly asked if the assessment has application in one of the most physically demanding sports known today, mixed martial arts.  Our immediate answer is yes, but let us explain why that is the case.

First, the Movement Assessment we created is an athletic biomechanical analysis designed to assess quality of movement with the 6 essential movements that compose the assessment.  Each of these are done in a specific sequence that allows us to go through a process of elimination to direct us to a root cause.  The movements themselves come directly from the research.  They are movements which we know, from the research, that if improved, reduce risk for injury and improve athletic performance.  The performance improvement is the result of improved force production (by improving the efficiency of the movement) and decreased risk for injury by improving force attenuation and loading tissues in the fashion in which they are meant to be loaded.  Looking at the example of the NFL player to the right, you can see that this movement will result in loading of tissues in a way that they are not meant to be loaded and which will limit his ability to generate maximal force production.  In his case, he is an extremely talented athlete, but it begs the question, how much better could he be?

The Movement Assessment itself is physically challenging and designed to guide training programs so that the movements identified on the assessment are not carried through in training.  When adding a Fatigue Component this takes the biomechanical assessment to the next level.  This assessment includes a research based fatigue protocol followed by the Movement Assessment.  This allows you to see what the athlete looks like later in the game or later rounds when performance counts the most.

In mixed martial arts, like most sports, the ability to generate force, maintain force production and quickness are keys to success as well as injury prevention.  If the above movement patterns are seen in the athlete, then this means there is a loss of the efficiency in the system.  For even the most skilled player, when these are present they could be improved if their core movements on the Movement Assessment are improved.  When looking at a few recent examples of training protocols used throughout the sport, we see some clear examples where the Movement Assessment is applicable. 

Squats are a foundational movement in sports.  Improvement in this movement results in improved force production and vertical jump.  In the example of this fighter training with squats with kettle bells, he is demonstrating a slight anterior position of the right foot and elbow positions that are equal bilateral (side to side).  The only way for this to be occurring in a closed kinetic chain is there has to be some component of trunk rotation in the lumbar spine.  This results in increased rotational stress at the L5/S1 disc as well as asymmetrical weight bearing and force production.  If this poor movement pattern is repeated over and over with every repetition and every training session, then this not only leads to less than optimal training outcome but also increased risk for injury both in performance and in training.   This is easily identifiable in in the Movement Assessment.

Single leg activities are also critical to sports and sports performance.  Recent studies in the American Journal of Sports Medicine state that single limb testing is one of the most important movements to test as it has the highest predictive value to performance in sports.  Hence, this is why 50% of the Movement Assessment is single limb in nature.  Considering the importance of single limb testing, it is also an important movement to train. In this example, we see an athlete lunging across the cage during dynamic stretching.  As he does this, you also see (in this still) his right knee adducting toward midline.  This motion, in a closed kinetic chain, results increased stress to the ACL, MCL, labrum in the hip and medial structures of the ankle.  If this poor movement pattern is repeated over and over with every repetition and every training session, then this results in an athlete that will do this and have less than optimal force when standing on one leg to kick or standing on one leg to deliver a knee to his opponent.  This same pattern trained over and over can result in adducting at the hip and possibly tearing his ACL when going for a take down on his opponent. This is easily identifiable in in the Movement Assessment.

There is not anyone out there who would argue that core strength is not essential for sport.  In mixed martial arts, it is critical.  One of the most common exercises used to train the core is the side plank.  This is a great exercise as there is a lot of EMG activity of the gluteus medius, internal obliques, quadratus laborum and transverse abdominus.  During this movement, the EMG activity of the gluteus medius is very high and this is a critical muscle in core/hip/lumbar stability.  The gluteus medius is the muscle that assists in stabilizing the pelvis during single leg activities.  Here we see an athlete demonstrating a retrotrendelenburg, where you can see an arc from his upper body to lower body.  This should be straight.  .  If this poor movement pattern is repeated over and over with every repetition and every training session, then this results in the athlete not training the muscles he is setting out to train and the impact on performance will be less than optimal. This is easily identifiable in in the Movement Assessment.

As you can see, the movement patterns identified with the Movement Assessment have a direct impact on training, performance and injury prevention. 

Trent Nessler, PT, MPT, DPT:  Physical Therapist | Author | Educator |Innovator in Movement Science and Technology.  Dr. Nessler is a physical therapist and owner of Athletic Therapy Services.  He serves as a practicing clinician and movement change consultant for practices and organizations looking to develop injury prevention initiatives and strategies.  He has been researching and developing movement assessments and technologies for >10 years is the author of the textbook Dynamic Movement Assessment: Enhance Performance and Prevent Injury, and associate editor for International Journal of Athletic Therapy & Training.  You can contact him directly at

No comments:

Post a Comment