functional movement screening needs specificity

A recent study into lifting either symmetrically or asymmetrically found no significant difference in peak low back loading levels between a group with a high score (>14) on the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), versus a low score (<14) on the FMS screen.

“Previous research suggests that a general whole-body movement screen could be used to identify personal movement attributes that promote potentially injurious low-back loading patterns at work.”1.

The group concluded that “using the previously established injury prediction threshold value of 14, the composite FMS score was not related to the peak low-back loading magnitudes in lifting. Though not statistically significant, the tendency for the lumbar spines of low-scorers to be more deviated when the peak low-back compression force was imposed could be biomechanically meaningful because spinal load tolerance varies with posture. Future attempts to modify or reinterpret FMS scoring are warranted given that several previous studies have revealed links between composite FMS scores and musculoskeletal complaints.” 1.

So what basically they are suggesting is that the functional movement screen was not a good injury predictor – in this case – where asymmetrical lifting was involved. The authors may be assuming that the model they use to predict load in the lumbar spine is accurate, and also that this load relates to the predisposition to low back pain. However, if they are correct, then perhaps this indicates that if a worker’s mobility is assessed closer to the positions they enter into during performance of the task (e.g. squat and lift) we may get a better idea of which workers are more or less likely to break down due to lack of flexibility, mobility, stability or strength in those positions?

1. Tyson, B, Frost, D, Callaghan, J, 2013. FMS scores and low-back loading during lifting e Whole-body movement screening as an ergonomic tool? Applied Ergonomics, 1-8.

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