Monday, October 10, 2016

If You Were A Formula 1 Car - What Would Your Mechanic Say?

A common theme you will read about in our blogs is pathokinematics or pathological movement.  Throughout the history of our blog we have talked about how pathological or bad movement adds to both increased injury risk as well as performance issues.  Whether it is Chappell et al study in 2002 showing the impact that fatigue has on lower extremity mechanics and associated risk or Frank et al study in 2013 showing how poor mechanics influence loading to the anterior cruciate ligament.  The science is clear, poor movement patterns lead to increased risk for injury and decreased athletic performance.  The influence mechanics have on lower extremity loading and function is critical.  One of the easiest analogies I often share with patients and athletes is the high performance car analogy. 
The science and technology behind the Formula 1 race car is truly extraordinary.  Every aspect of that machine is evaluated and analyzed to ensure optimal performance.  Millions of dollars are spent ensuring that every aspect of the car, every piston, every tire and every strut is performing at its optimal performance.  Formula 1 Team’s invest millions of dollars analyzing every aspect from how many times the pistons fire to what is the pressure through every tire in a turn.  This not only ensures the vehicle’s ability to maximize its speed potential but also ensures the longevity of the multimillion dollar investment.  The Formula 1 car is a complex machine made of the best materials and parts designed utilizing the latest science and technology available.  Science including physics.  Comparing this high performance vehicle to the human body may seem a little off base but the reality is, the human body is even more complex.   Imagine for a moment if this NFL player pictured here was your Formula 1 car.  What would your mechanic say?  It does not take a multimillion dollar analysis to tell you something is off.  That a car moving like this is not going to perform at its optimal level and that this could result in excessive wear and tear on the car.  Any of us could look at a Formula 1 car that is leaning to one side and know something is off.  We may not know exactly what it is but we know it is something.  Just like movement like this, we all can intuitively make the leap and realize this may impact the performance of this high performance machine and which may result in decreased longevity (injury) of the machine.
Now making the correlation from human to machine may seem irrational or depersonalizing the athlete.  But, the human body is the ultimate performance machine.  It is the most complex of performance machines from which all of the sciences can be applied.  In extreme cases like this, pathokinematics (poor movement) are easy to see.  If you were a high performance mechanic, would you change something about this Formula 1 car?  Unlike the flat tire or a bent strut, identifying the root cause of movement like this in athletes is much harder to do.  But, after you had invested millions of dollars into this athlete, you would want to ensure longevity of his career, reduce his risk for injury, and potentially improve his already high level athletic performance?  More importantly, as a parent of a child athlete, we want to ensure we do whatever we can to maximize their opportunity AND reduce their risk for injury to preserve their future joint health.  As complex as the Formula 1 car is, they have figured out the science and how to use that science to maximize all those aspects.  In field of sports medicine and biomechanics, we have also figured that out.  We have applied physics (biomechanics) to identify movements which put athletes at risk.  We know from Myers et al’s work in 2012 that single limb performance is a one of the key indicators for performance during sport and for identifying movements which the athlete at risk for injury.  Yet, we don’t have this as a part of a standardized method for assessing athletes prior to participation in sports.  Sadly, there is a much more rigorous, standardized method and use of the current research and science in evaluating inanimate object’s movement and performance than we do in an athlete.  If we took today’s standardized sports medicine approach to the Formula 1 car, we might look at the car sitting still, rev the engine, look under the hood, check its alignment and oil levels but never watch it move.  Why is it that Formula 1 Racing is so far advanced in the sciences and technologies they use?  One might say money.  Although this may be partly true, the reality is that medical sciences are so resistant to change.
Can we change that?  What if the technology was available, would they adapt?  Next week we will dive into those questions and more.  We hope that you found this blog insightful and useful.  As we stated previously, stay tuned for part II of this series.  If you like what you see, SHARE THE PASSION!  It is the biggest compliment you can give.  Follow us on Twitter @ACL_prevention and tweet about it.  #Evolve and help us spread the passion and #3DDMA.
Build Athletes to Perform…Build Athletes to Last!™
Trent Nessler, PT, MPT, DPT:  CEO/Founder ACL, LLC | Author | Innovator in Movement Science and Technology.  Dr. Nessler is a physical therapist and CEO/Founder of ACL, LLC.  He is the researcher and developer the Dynamic Movement Assessment™, Fatigue Dynamic Movement Assessment™, 3D-DMA™, author of the textbook Dynamic Movement Assessment: Enhance Performance and Prevent Injury, and associate editor for International Journal of Athletic Therapy & Training. For more information, please see our website at

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