Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group, LLC Blog

Limited Anke Dorsiflexion? Find a Ninja

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Thu, Oct 6, 2011 @ 07:10 AM



By Art Horne


ankle dorsiflexion


So often ankle dorsiflexion or should I say a lack thereof, is pointed at as the underlying culprit for a variety of movement impairments … and rightfully so. A lack of true talocrural motion can cause havoc up the chain involving itself in a variety of impairments including anterior tibial pain, patellofemoral pain and general low back pain to only name a few.

However, the actual limiting factor causing this lack of osteokinematic motion may be multi-factorial and if clinicians are hoping to address this limitation over the long haul with permanent change the exact location and tissue responsible for this restriction must be clearly identified and addressed with a specific intervention to match the specific tissue.

With regards to soft tissue restrictions there are only 6 possible structures that can limit this motion, and these are:

1. Soleus
2. Posterior Tibialis
3. Flexor Hallucis Longus
4. Flexor Digitorum Longus
5. Posterior Talofibular ligament
6. Posterior Tibiotalar Ligament

The gastrocnemieus, although probably the very first structure that comes to mind, does not limit true dorsiflexion in function (that is unless you participate in ski jumping or speed walking, and then you need to include this in your assessment), since the knee is almost always flexed when the ankle is asked to express dorsiflexion in function, such as walking, running, squatting, lunging, stepping, jumping and landing.


racewalking skijumping
Now that’s some dorsiflexion!


Remember, in order for your tibia to pass over your talus, and your talus to move between the tibia and the calcaneus we need to think of what pathology or dysfunction is not allowing the above mentioned tissues to lengthen.  More often than not, fibrotic adhesions within the muscles or fascial restrictions are to blame, with the filet mignon of tissue treatment choice being an Active Release Technique.  Although lesser cuts of treatment choices allow tissues to mobilize at times, rarely can a foam roller or tennis ball address a specific adhesion like a skilled clinician and the appropriate manual release technique.  That’s not to say one is wasting their time or shouldn’t employ the soft tissue mobilization techniques that they are allowed to use given their credentialing or state laws, but understanding when to refer to a specialist with a very specific skill set is the difference between a butter knife a ninja – both may get the job done but we all know which one we’d rather have on our side.




So how does one differentiate between these tissues?

Because the Soleus and Posterior Tibialis are the two usual suspects and responsible for the majority of problems when it comes to ankle dorsiflexion limitations, these two will usually require the majority of your focus both in evaluation palpation and treatment.


posterior tibialis


However, both the Flexor Hallucis Longus and the Flexor Digitorum Longus can limit dorsiflexion and should be excluded to be sure that they are not involved.  To exclude these two structures from your list of possible dysfunctional contributors simply ask the patient to maximally dorsiflex their ankle while keeping their heel on the ground.

1. Gently pick up the great toe off the ground into extension. If there is slack and the patient does not indicate an increase in symptoms then the FHL is more than likely not involved.
2. Repeat tissue testing by selecting the toes and pulling them into extension.  If there is slack and the patient does not indicate and increase in symptoms then the FDL is more than likely not involved.


dorsiflexion  ankle motion


To identify the underlying tissue whether it be the soleus or posterior tibialis requires some discernable palpation skills.


Did I make a permanent change?

Charlie Weingroff calls it the “Audit Process”  while others such as good friend and colleague Pete Viteritti simply calls it, test-treat-retest.  If the correct treatment choice was matched to the correct tissue choice and location then a marked improvement in range, function and/or pain levels should occur. 

If minimal or no improvements were made than the following may have occurred:

1. You applied the correct treatment to the wrong tissue (tissue adhesion was within the posterior tibialis and you treated the soleus for example), or
2. You applied the incorrect treatment to the correct tissue (pressure was too light and thus was not sufficient to break up the underlying scar tissue), or
3. The limiting factor was not soft tissue but instead an osteokinematic “misalignment” or a position fault as described and made famous by Brian Mulligan (more Mulligan in a future post).

Summary: The most important step in any treatment approach starts with first identifying the correct pain generator or dysfunctional tissue involved.  Without a correct place to start, all treatment options will fail to make a lasting change.

Topics: Art Horne, basketball conference, basketball training programs, athletic training conference, athletic training, boston hockey conference, Barefoot in Boston, Dorsiflexion, ankle problems

Integrated Care - Part VI: Getting Everyone To Squat

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Tue, Sep 27, 2011 @ 07:09 AM


by Art Horne

Since squatting and the decision to squat or not comes up more often than any other subject when it comes to sports medicine and performance professionals, we decided to tackle this subject head on in this latest post.  Everyone should be able to squat - there I said it. So whether you'll be teaching it after surgery, or training it in the weight room it's important that the beliefs and concepts that you have pertaining to the squat is the same as those that you work with in order to achieve the highest level of athlete success. 

Below is an outline which we have used in a staff journal club to finalize our teaching progressions and teaching cues for the squat pattern while also getting everyone on the same page and on board with the importance of squatting.

sports medicine


Squat Goal: all athletes should be constantly working towards a score of three on their OH Squat test. Whether they initially present to Sports Medicine with back, knee, hip or other LE injury or pain, all care and performance training providers should be able to look at this movement pattern and address any movement concerns IN ADDITION to their traditional rehab or performance program regardless of initial pain or injury presentation.

FMS Squat Test:  see  for complete details
(Have a staff member certified or familiar with the FMS review testing criteria, followed by staff members from both staff’s testing and evaluating each other).


What if the student-athlete describes PAIN during the squat test?


sports medicine


Only qualified medical professionals should deal with pain and painful movement patterns.  If a student-athlete experiences pain they should be referred to the athletic trainer coordinating their care at the college level or another health care professional if you are working in the private sector.  Although many “painful” maneuvers are often neglected and played down by the student-athlete, seldom do those with pain during a simple bodyweight squat ever go on to compete at a high level without future injury and time loss.

Since PAIN is complicated, multifactorial and often unpredictable, a painful pattern should be “broken down” to its component parts so to find the underlying pain generator or limiting factor.  The Selective Functional Movement Assessment TM offers health care providers a systematic approach and a common movement language among all staff members.

(Have a staff member certified or familiar with the SFMA squat breakout present this algorithm to the remainder of your staff and then follow up by having individuals from both groups evaluate each other while identifying the limiting factor within each individual’s squat pattern.

SFMA Squat Breakout:

1. Overhead deep squatting pattern

2. Fingers interlocked behind neck into deep squat position
a. This position lowers the difficulty by not having the shoulders flexed vertical
b. Removes the upper body components and reduces the level of dynamic stability needed to perform the squat.

3. Assisted Squat from ATC into deep squat
a. Athlete holds hands of evaluator while performing squat.
b. Looks at the true symmetrical mobility of the lower body (hips, knees, ankles) without the requirement of dynamic stability.

4. Half kneeling Dorsi-flexion (test for ankle ROM)
a. Place foot on weight bench and lean forward over the foot as far as possible without the heel coming off the bench.
b. The knee should move forward out past the toes at around 4 inches.
c. Repeat for both sides.

5. Supine Knees-to-chest – test for anatomical limitations at hip in non-weight bearing position.
a. Looks at mobility of the hips, knees and spine in a non-weight bearing position.
b. Can help differentiate a mobility vs. stability problem
c. Have the patient grab both shins and attempt to touch their thighs to their lower rib cage.
d. If they can’t get their calves to touch their thighs due to knee tightness, have them grab their thigh instead and repeat thin maneuver. (This will help differentiate between hip and knee mobility issues. If in this position they still can’t get their thighs to touch their rib cage, then there is a potential hip dysfunction).

What’s Next?

Since so many of us sit on our butts all day it’s no surprise that our butts are rarely working to the level they should be. 

(Unless of course you use your butt for a simple paper weight – then your butt works just fine).

Because the squat is the end goal for all athletes in terms of both health and performance, it’s important for athletic trainers and other health care professionals to begin grooving this pattern early on in the rehabilitation process so that there is not only a seamless transition from one Sports Medicine to Performance Training, but also a clear message when it comes to cueing and technique among all professionals on staff.  In order to have everyone speaking the same squat language, starting everyone back on the ground and building a solid and logical progression from post-surgical all the way to high performance only makes sense while the entire staff is playing nice together.

Below is a starting point with a few teaching cues to get the conversation started and a solid progression built between the two groups.   (I have purposefully not included a complete progression below so to force the issue with your own staff.  People tend to complete tasks fully if they have had an opportunity to contribute to so be sure to ask for feedback from both staffs – Sports Medicine and Strength & Conditioning).


Back to Basics: (Supine Table Series)

1. Teach Glute Max w/ Bridge
2. Supine Bridge w/ Thera-band
3. Supine Bridge w/ Marching
4. Single Leg Hip Bridge

Teaching Points:

a. Squeeze Glutes to hold “gold coin” between butt cheeks or pretend to “crack a walnut” while bridging
b. brace core musculature as taught by Stu McGill
c. Ensure hamstrings are not dominate during exercise by palpating medial tendons.
d. Add a theraband around knees or create an ADDuction force to the knees to facilitate additional glute max contraction


Teaching Progression for the Troubled Squat




1. Goblet Squat: hold Kettlebell by the horns and squat to depth (providing a weight to the anterior portion of body balances the athlete and gives an additional point of stability

2. Descend squat so that elbows touch VMO of each knee.

3. If depth is a problem “wedge” elbows inside of knees to mobilize the hips.

4. In the early stages be sure to stand behind your athlete to ensure safety – encourage thoracic extension and a flat back

5. ** use clinical judgment based on patient presentation and injury. If unsure, REGRESS activity and PERFECT – OWN THE MOVEMENT before progressing to more advanced alternatives.


READ:  Squatting - An Expression Of Health


Next week: Bringing both staffs together to learn and master the hip hinge – a must for avoiding and rehabilitating back pain and also pulling big deadlift numbers!



Topics: Basketball Related, Art Horne, basketball resources, BSMPG, athletic training conference, athletic training, FMS, Barefoot in Boston

Integrated Care - Part V: When NOT Touching Your Toes is NOT a Hamstring Problem

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Sun, Sep 18, 2011 @ 06:09 AM

by Art Horne


I remember being taught in school that people have low back pain because their hamstrings are tight.  Therego, stretch the hamstrings and resolve the low back pain.  It was a simple solution to a very complex and often misunderstood problem and yet as a student it was a clean and direct resolution to an often nagging dilemma.

Further testing and evaluation always “proved” the hamstrings as the culprit since so many of the low back pain patients were never able to touch their toes, and of course toe touching was a direct result of hamstring length.  Again, this bore out to make sense since after spending an exhausting amount of time stretching these patient’s hamstrings, and then retesting, some measurable change were noted (sometimes) with the patient inching closer to their toes.  The only problem in this clean and concise “hamstring-LBP” relationship was that these patients, no matter how long I stretched them or which stretching technique I employed ALWAYS ended up coming back the very next day for the same stretching routine and the same unresolved back pain.



Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


Of course, many of these patients really never had “tight” hamstrings after all, but instead had hamstrings that were preventing them from a place they no had no business being in the first place. 

What do I mean?

Well, many of these patients, or at least the majority of them,  were flexion intolerant which means both flexing their spine and/or moving into flexion caused a reflexive “tightening” of the hamstrings to essentially keep them from FLEXING FORWARD and moving into a region which would exacerbate their current condition, or “a place they have no business being.”  In addition, many of these “tight hamstring” patients were never ever feeling a hamstring stretch, but instead were experiencing a neural stretch, which unfortunately after stretching only continued their “tight-stretch-pain-tight” cycle. 

Soo… Should I Stretch or Not?

1. First distinguish between hamstring tightness and neural tension.  Neural tension is always described differently than muscular tightness – that is if you’re listening.  I had a professor who told me that your patient will always tell exactly what is wrong with them if you listen long enough.  And if you listen just a little bit longer, they’ll also tell you exactly how to make them better.  This case is no different – of course, if you’re too busy catering water you’ll never have enough time to listen long enough.

2. Neural tension is often described as “pinching” or with other words that clearly denote nerve origin such as “zapping” or “burning.”  Muscle tension doesn’t zap or burn.

3. Confirm neural involvement with a slump test – then STOP stretching and begin a nerve flossing regiment if indicated.

4. Does the patient need more mobility (hamstring stretching) or do they simply lack the appropriate stability (or neuromuscular control) which ultimately is limiting them from moving into a place where they simply didn’t have the requisite control? I’m willing to bet that more often than not that stability/neuromuscular control is the limiting factor and not hamstring length – especially in low back pain patients.

So what does this have to do with integrated care?

1. On evaluation during pre-participation screenings a simply toe touch as a gross indicator of both ability and willingness to forward flex will “catch” those athletes who either have had previous back pain, current back pain or a complete lack of understanding relating to lumbar spine/pelvis position and an ability to disassociate them during normal daily living.

2. Those with pain or previous pain should be referred to sports medicine for further evaluation – yes, even those that don’t currently have pain.

3. Those that have trouble separating hip and lumbar motion should be placed into a “teaching” group while in the weight room until they can successfully “stiffen” their spine while gaining mobility and motion throughout the hips; both which are essential if any type of squat or deadlift pattern are prescribed in their program.  But really more importantly, these two patterns occur each and every day of their lives and must be grooved before major lumbar spine pathology presents itself.

Click HERE for a quick note on establishing a hip hinge.

Next week: A quick in-service to get both Sports Medicine and Strength Training hinging at the hips and teaching all athletes a great squat pattern. 

Topics: Art Horne, basketball performance, basketball resources, basketball conference, basketball training programs, athletic training conference, barefoot strength training, Barefoot in Boston, barefoot training

Sue Falsone - Head & Shoulders: We're Not Talking About Dandruff

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Fri, Sep 16, 2011 @ 07:09 AM

BSMPG is proud to announce Sue Falsone to speak at Northeastern Univeristy on Sept. 22nd from 12-2 pm.  


Sue Falsone


In this lecture and lab, Sue will talk about the inter-connection of
the neck, upper back and shoulders and how these three areas are
dependent on each other. She will discuss anatomic and kinetic
connections, breathing and mobility issues as well as stability
needs. She will explore how upper quarter dysfunction is truly a
comprehensive integrated problem needing comprehensive integrated
solutions. You will leave this lecture with an improved understanding
of how the upper quarter segments relate to each other and you
will leave lab with integrated solutions you can implement Monday
morning with your clients.


Speaker: Sue Falsone

Topic: Cervicothoracic Junction: How the Head, Neck and Shoulders Inter-relate

When: Septemeber 22, 2011

Time: 12:00 noon - 2:00 pm

Cost: There is not cost associated with this program. In lieu of a program fee, attendees are encouraged to donate to InnerCity Weightlifting.

Location: THERE HAS BEEN A CHANGE IN VENUE - This lecture will now be held in the Matthew's Arena - Varsity Club, on the campus of Northeastern University.

Continuing Education: 2 hours of continuing education is awarded for this event for both Certified Athletic Trainers and Strength & Conditioning professionals.

Continuing Education: The Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group is recognized by the Board of Certification, Inc. to offer 2 hours of continuing education for Certified Athletic Trainers. Provider Number P8108.

athletic training resources


Contact Information:  For additional details please contact us at 

Listen to Sue on by clicking HERE.   


Additional Information on InnerCity Weightlifting

inner city weightlifting


The mission of InnerCity Weightlifting is to reduce violence and promote professional, personal and academic achievement among urban youth. We serve young people on a direct path to gang involvement, former and active gang members, and young victims of domestic abuse through the sport of Olympic Lifting. We work to empower young people with the confidence to say no to violence and yes to opportunity.  We provide our students with career opportunities working for InnerCity Weightlifting and in the field of personal training. We provide frequent adult mentorship, and academic support. Counseling services are offered through several of our partnering organizations. The training not only assists sport performance, but also increases confidence, motivation, and may increase learning skills through cognitive development.

These students want to become bigger, stronger, and faster. They want to participate in weightlifting. The sport, coaches, and training atmosphere, however, facilitate positive change. As a student attempts to set a new personal record (PR) for weight lifted, everyone stops and watches. The lifters help 'pump up' the student's morale and something unexpected happens: children, who have been given limited support outside of a gang, are now encouraging each other. They bond and a team is formed. They gain the confidence needed to succeed despite the odds.

Read this Blog by Sarah Cahill, Strength & Conditioning Coach at Northeastern University, on her experiences volunteering at Inner City Weightling

Interested in supporting Inner City Weightlifting or volunteering your time? Contact Sarah Cahill at

Topics: basketball conference, athletic training conference, Sue Falsone, barefoot strength training, Barefoot in Boston

Art Horne Interviews with Joe Heiler on

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Wed, Sep 7, 2011 @ 07:09 AM




Click HERE to listen to this interview.

In this interview, Art discusses his new book, "Barefoot in Boston: A Practical Guide to Achieving Injury Resolution and Enhancing Performance", as well as discussing some research on barefoot walking and training versus wearing shoes, what to look for in minimalist shoes, how he has incorporated barefoot training with his basketball team, and much more..(including how to take a hack saw to a basketball shoe!)

Topics: Basketball Related, Art Horne, BSMPG, functional movement screen, boston marathon, foot pain, foot fracture, barefoot strength training, Barefoot in Boston, achilles pain, barefoot running, barefoot training

Integrated Care - Part III: Breaking Down Extension Based Problems

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Mon, Sep 5, 2011 @ 07:09 AM

by Art Horne


Although identifying a poorly executed squat is easy for many sports medicine and strength professionals (especially given the “rules” and guidelines set forth by the FMS standards), identifying the actual underlying problem or major contributor to a deficit squat is never as easy.  However, with a systems based approach during your annual pre-participation screenings your team of health care and performance professionals can tease out these often overlooked deficiencies as part of your movement screen from the very beginning instead of reacting after future injury or poor performance.

As I mentioned in a prior post the ability to express a proper squat pattern is fundamental to human movement.  Included in this category of fundamental “expressions” is the overhead reach, or what is commonly known through the Selective Functional Movement Screen TM (SFMA) as the Multi-segmental Extension Pattern (MSE) pictured below (figure1).  This easy test that takes literally 10 seconds can produce some startling results when athletes and those observing them, witness an otherwise “healthy”  and  highly skilled athlete in the prime of their life unable to reach behind them while shifting their weight and hips forward. 



functional movement screen

figure 1.


Let’s break it down.

According to the SFMATM rules, or simple human movement fundamentals, normal range of motion during this test includes:

1. With heels together (this is important and often overlooked as it provides a test-retest standardization) an athlete or patient should be able to have their ASIS pass over their great toes while;

2. Reaching overhead with hands in line with their shoulders and have the spine of their scapula clear or pass behind the heels of their feet and;

3. Their hands clear or pass behind the spine of the scapula (Figure 2).



functional movement

figure 2.

These movement minimums allow clinicians and performance coaches a starting point to begin observing their athletes for general restrictions within this pattern.  If an athlete is unable to complete this movement (failure to pass the ASIS over the great toe) then the athlete is asked to cross their arms over their chest and repeat the movement.  If the athlete is unable to still exhibit this fundamental expression of extension then the athlete in my opinion should be referred to a staff athletic trainer for further evaluation with the underlying problem is identified and addressed.  Many times the athlete will not understand why they are being referred since they have never had a “problem” before, but after a quick evaluation and treatment you’ll often find their eyes beam wide open with the additional range and freedom of motion that you’ve given back to them.

To confirm your findings on the examination table (although authentic human movement rarely ever happens on an exam table. Side note: How come you can measure with a goniometer an athlete’s ankle, knee and hip range of motion on an examination table and determine that they have the requisite mobility to perform a normal and unrestricted squat pattern but when you stand them up, the pattern looks like a train wreck? Movement means so much more than just your standard orthopedic examinations), have the athlete lay prone and ask them to tighten up one butt check and extend their leg off the table.  Repeat with the opposite leg and compare.  Rarely will an athlete be able to exhibit the appropriate amount of hip extension during this prone table test and not be able to pass their ASIS over their toes during the standing evaluation with arms crossed over head.

So what’s next? How do I fix it?

Not so fast.  I think it’s worth mentioning here a few items that support adding this simple test into both your yearly screenings along with your general orthopedic examination (regardless of injury presentation).  First off, I have been utilizing the FMSTM screen for a very long time as a strength coach, and over the last year have been utilizing the SFMATM methodology during injury presentation in the clinic and the overwhelming end result to many movement dysfunction and injury/pain cases have always boiled down to two movement impairments – Shoulder Mobility (Which in the end really is T-Spine Mobility) and Hip Extension.  The FMSTM  includes a test called the Active Straight Leg Raise, and this test unfortunately has been deemed a “hamstring” flexibility test or a hip flexion test by most casual observers but this couldn’t be further from the truth or the original intent of the test (future post coming: Are your hamstrings tight or are they just not letting you go somewhere you have no business being?).

For those that are not familiar with the test, an athlete lays on their back with a 2x6 board under their knees and while keeping the bottom leg in contact with the board slowly raises an extended leg upwards exhibiting the DIFFERENCE and available motion between the two legs and NOT the amount of hamstring or hip flexion range that you have.  It is this DIFFERENCE that should be noted, which ultimately leads to an examination and treatment focus of the down-leg in most instances as I mentioned earlier as the limiting factor (hip extension).

This should really come as no surprise since we have clearly become a hip flexion dominant society (sitting at computers, video games, etc not to mention our affinity for sitting on bikes at the commercial gym and watching the TV screen instead of sprinting on an incline treadmill which of course requires a bit of hard work and the aforementioned hip extension) and have basically lost the ability to “express” hip extension.  Although strength coaches and sports medicine professionals alike advocate “stretching” this problematic area after injury I think it’s worth teasing out your future patients sooner than later with a simple test while they are healthy athletes and avoid their inevitable future visit to your sports medicine clinic as patients.


Next week: Addressing and Correcting this Hip Extension Problem from both sides of the wall.



Topics: basketball performance, basketball training programs, BSMPG, FMS, SFMA, functional movement screen, Barefoot in Boston

Children's Hospital Boston Presents: Tackling Concussions Head On

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 @ 07:09 AM


Children's Hospital Boston


Join Mark R. Proctor, MD, director of the Brain Injury Center, as he leads a dynamic discussion on concussions in pediatric patients during a live, interactive Webcast. A multidisciplinary team, including members of Neurology, Neurosurgery, Neuropsychology, Neuroradiology and Sports Medicine, will discuss the signs of mild and severe concussions, on-field symptom management, the psychological toll of concussions, and best practices for treatment and follow-up.

This event will be streamed live on September 12th at 6:00pm. Click HERE for complete details.


Topics: BSMPG, concussion management, concussion, Barefoot in Boston, children's hospital boston

Integrated Care - Assessment and Intervention

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Mon, Aug 29, 2011 @ 07:08 AM

by Art Horne


At the college level many times both assessment and intervention decisions are made based on time availability and simple manpower, and not on what the student-athlete requires for optimal health and performance.  Juggling study hall, practice, classes along with rehabilitation and performance training leaves little time for “additional” work for either the student-athlete or the staff professional in charge to provide additional auxiliary services in the form of corrective work, soft tissue manipulation or additional strength training.  With that said, this extra “work” is often neglected or pushed aside until either the student-athlete is no longer able to participate in practices or games due to an injury or becomes crippled due to some form of debilitating pain.  In either case, unfortunately the student-athlete has now become a student-athlete-patient within your facility and the little time you had to address her problem prior (which of course is why it wasn’t taken care of in the first place, or even looked at – ignorance is bliss after all) has now become a major investment and drain on your time and services. 

In order to avoid the initial trap that so many sports medicine and performance departments fall into each fall it is paramount that both departments (Sports Medicine and Strength Training) first reach an agreement to implement a comprehensive screening program TOGETHER to tease out dysfunction, evaluate for painful movement patterns and address these minor “tweaks” before they become major pains.


athletic training


Where to start:

It’s hard to rank which movement pattern is more important over another as each of the “Big Three” (squat, lunge and step) are all integrated and hold value within the context of all sporting events and training.  However, the only pattern among the three that is universally tested among college athletes and Strength Coaches is the squat, and thus, at least with regards to an integrated approach takes precedent over the others if having to choose only one.  Administering the test takes under a minute and produces so much more than just a number via the traditional FMS scoring system.

1. There’s something powerful about having members of both your sports medicine and strength staffs stand beside each other while evaluating a student-athletes overhead squat pattern during a fall pre-participation examination.  Because the strength coaches typically tests each athlete’s squat either later the same day or the next, this “pre-screening” allows strength coaches to see the movement pattern in an authentic form, not to mention in a rare one-on-one format which is never the case in a collegiate weight room due to traditional low coach to student ratios. 

2. When an athlete scores a “1” which means they cannot achieve a proper squat, it’s always nice to see the strength coach cross the name off the list of kids to max test later that day.  If you cannot squat to at least a “2” in the FMS overhead squat test then you simply haven’t qualified to load the pattern and go balls to the wall during testing – PERIOD.  This will sometimes be an issue among sports medicine professionals and strength coaches if the athletic trainer simply tells the strength coach that the athlete shouldn’t squat; but this is never a problem when the strength coach sees for themselves the awful pattern that the student-athlete exhibits.  The strength staff must be involved in your yearly pre-participation screenings to ensure buy in from all those involved in the care and performance of the student-athletes.  Remember: squatting is not a weight room exercise, it’s an expression of health, and allowing a student-athlete to max test a pattern that they cannot perform with their own body weight is simply irresponsible – PERIOD.

3. So, with that said, what do you do with the kid that scores a “1” on the FMS overhead squat test? As we discussed prior, time is of the essence and thus the underlying deficiency needs to be “teased out” and an appropriate intervention applied.  Both the FMS and The Selective Functional Movement Screen (SFMA) allows the clinician and/or strength coach an easy algorithm to follow with suggestions for corrective  work once the underlying deficiency is discovered.  Often times it’s the usual mobility suspects – t-spine, hips and ankle but just as often, these mobility issues requires a skilled clinician’s assessment and intervention.  On the flip side, in the case of a neuromuscular-stability issue a Goblet squat progression can be implemented by a strength coach during a training time in place of the squat, to begin coaching them back towards their end goal of a “3” or at least a “2” prior to max testing. (more on Goblet squat progression in a future post)

4. For all those athletes that score a “0” during the test – which means they experience pain, a comprehensive follow up evaluation is scheduled either later that day or within the week by a skilled clinician, (most likely a member of your Sports Medicine Staff) to determine the pain generator along with a rehabilitation plan to properly address.  So many times athletes will state that they have no pain on intake but then suddenly realize that during a simple movement that pain is actually present.  I’ve never had an athlete experience pain during a simple movement test (“It’s not a big deal, I just put ice on it after I train”) not miss time during preseason due to this pain or another greater underlying problem.


Now, some would say that when evaluating the overhead squat pattern utilizing the FMS scoring criteria that we basically all fall in as a “2” and that only a very few athletes score a “1” or a “3” and therefore  the test may be a waste of time.  Although it is true that the majority of athletes that I’ve evaluated using this methodology score a “2”, the means certainly justify the end, especially when you’ve i. discovered pain in this simple pattern and were able to treat it immediately and ii. Discovered a poor movement pattern and provided corrections which over time allowed the athlete to squat normally (which always makes the strength guys happy) but most importantly allows the athlete to achieve success in their individual sport – the reason they showed up in August for pre-season in the first place.  In the end, the OH squat test really only takes a minute but the effects of this evaluation and correction last throughout their college career.

Next week we will talk about evaluating the Multi-segmental Extension Pattern and what to do when you find a problem.

Topics: Art Horne, basketball performance, BSMPG, athletic training conference, FMS, SFMA, integrated care, Barefoot in Boston, barefoot training

Integrated Care - Part I: The Language Barrier

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 @ 07:08 AM

by Art Horne


Over the past several years I have made the integration of Sports Medicine care and Strength Training a core principle within our department.  This is relatively a new concept as strength coaches and sports medicine professionals have often been pitted against each other by sport coaches, athletes and often themselves.  Although this new path to better health and performance is clearly thwart with challenges, there are some simple steps that both departments can make that immediately impacts BOTH the health and performance of the student-athlete and leaves both professionals looking better in the eyes of all those around them.  Below is a question from a colleague that I wanted to share publicly.  In order to answer his question, as well as many others, it is my intention over the next few months to describe and share with you the many small steps that any college or university can implement in order to provide an improved care and performance model.


I would like to start out by saying that I really enjoy watching the videos and articles that you have released in reference to the approach you use at Northeastern University to bridge the gap between strength and conditioning and sports medicine. I am a strength and conditioning coach for a small Div. I college and also have a background in athletic training. I wanted to see if you could provide more insight as to how you take the results from the screening and testing that you do and then implement them into your programming. We screen our athletes, which consist of the FMS and a couple more orthopedic screens that we feel are applicable to the particular sport (Modified Thomas Test, Bridge w/ Leg Extension, Reach/Roll/Lift, etc….). How would you then use the results in the development of your program? Do you give each athlete individual work or do you use a systematic team approach addressing common faults or dysfunctions? I am torn as to what to do because as I am sure you are familiar with, time I have to spend with athletes is limited and getting them to comply with performing certain exercises on their own time can be very difficult at times. Any advice or examples that you could provide would be very beneficial. Thanks in advance for your time.

The Language Barrier:



The first step in any “relationship” is being able to understand what the other person is saying, and there is no greater communication gap in existence than the one that currently exists between Sport Medicine and Strength Training professionals.  In order to discuss dysfunctional movement patterns, corrective exercises, rehabilitation goals or substitutions/alternatives for strength exercises both parties must share a common language and then demand continuity with these terms.

I remember many years ago speaking to one of our staff members about a particular athlete and suggesting that she speak to the strength staff about an alternative exercise for an athlete who was suffering from some low back pain.  When asked what I recommended I immediately suggested a more spine sparing approach to her current “core strengthening” exercises and that we recommend McGill’s “Birddog” exercise which has been proven to be safer on the spine than the flexion based crunches the athlete was accustomed to in the weight room.  Not knowing what a “Birddog” exercise was, I quickly demonstrated the exercise to my co-worker at which time she smiled and said that she was familiar with the exercise but learned it as a kneeling opposite arm-leg reach.   Confused, (since McGill made the exercise famous as part of his “Big Three”) I asked another staff member what the exercise was that I was performing to which he replied, “a quadruped contralateral reach.”  Now slightly irritated (but happy that the name at least described the movement), I bolted over to the strength room to inquire about their knowledge of Stuart McGill, his research and what they called this particular exercise.  To my surprise McGill’s work had never been heard of and that this particular exercise was programmed as a “Flying Superman” within the student-athletes performance training.  It became painfully clear that the first order of business was getting both staffs to speak the same language, both within each department and across them. 

Because most of the members on your staff (both Sports Medicine and Strength) have come from a variety of educational backgrounds, continuing education courses and levels of expertise, it is important to begin formulating a shared exercise and assessment language in order for civil conversations to first take place.  By investing only a small amount of time and addressing this often overlooked, yet integral first step your staff will begin to enjoy the following benefits:

1. Provide improved services to your student-athletes.  Imagine the previous example taking place and a student-athlete approaching you for help with their kneeling opposite arm-leg reaches.  Now, the name basically tells you exactly what is needed, but imagine you knowing the exercise as a different name and perhaps emphasizing a different teaching point altogether.  Would you teach the athlete how to do the exercise “your” way? Find the athletic trainer who wrote the rehabilitation program to help them out? Or tell them that you’re sorry but you don’t know what they should be doing?  In any case precious time is wasted and as a fellow athletic trainer, this is something none of us has enough of.  In addition, you can imagine the frustration of the student-athlete witnessing your staff stumble through the most basic exercise descriptions!

2. A shared language allows staff members to be interchangeable because now each staff member is calling the same exercise the same name and teaching it while emphasising the same teaching points.  This allows athletic trainers to jump in and help with all rehabilitation programs, and not just “their own teams” as well as provide continued care during an athletic trainer’s absence (sick day, vacation or travel with another team).

3. Continued care and coaching along the performance continuum.   Here’s where the magic happens: whether the athlete your provide care for is one week into their ACL rehabilitation or the starting point guard for the basketball team pushing 300 pounds in the squat rack, the exercises if named the same, taught the same and progressed the same all fall along the same care-performance continuum.    Let’s examine the above example to really understand the power of the shared language.  Imagine on the far left hand side the student-athlete one week post-op ACL reconstruction and on the far right side the starting point guard pushing serious weight and performing at the highest level.  Moving along the continuum from left to right the athlete will experience and undergo exercises such as: Quad Sets, Straight leg Raises, Clams, Glute-Bridges, Mini-Band walks, Wall Squats, Body weight squats, Lunges, Box Jumps, and the list goes on.  At some time this athlete will be in the weight room and not be able to perform the Olympic lift for example programmed for the team that day but can certainly do pull-ups, side bridges and a number of other exercises that the strength coach has put in place during any particular phase or block of training.  If a shared language exists, the athletic trainer and the strength coach can have a civil and meaningful conversation about where the athlete is and discuss and implement substitutions for exercises that are not appropriate for them all while progressing the athlete safely along this care-performance line.  Not to mention, many of the rehabilitation exercises can be implemented safely within strength training program as substitutions for advanced exercises thus minimizing the athlete’s daily rehabilitation time and allowing the athletic trainer who is providing care for this athlete more time to focus on other athletes or say for example address soft tissue restrictions with the same athlete during “rehab” time which often requires a one-on-one time period, thus making their strength training time much more effective.

Now, some people may say that a couple of exercise names or switching names from time to time is really not a big deal.  Perhaps not.  If you only care for one team, perform all the rehabilitation by yourself and no other staff member helps you, then you can certainly come up with your own language.  But imagine for a moment a car factory where all the parts are all called different names, put on in different orders and actually assembled with various degrees of precision.  Would you ever buy a car from a factory like this?  The answer is a resounding no - so how can we expect our student-athletes to buy in to what we are saying if each staff member is saying something different?  By having an Exercise Pool to draw consistent language from, the number of benefits far outweigh any possible downside while also reducing the amount of confusion among your own staff and encouraging an atmosphere of shared help and patient responsibility. 

Next week: How a shared language during initial assessment can limit overall injury rate and increase performance immediately.

Topics: Art Horne, basketball performance, basketball training programs, BSMPG, athletic training conference, Barefoot in Boston, barefoot running, barefoot training

Barefoot In Boston now available on Kindle

Posted by Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group on Wed, Aug 10, 2011 @ 16:08 PM


barefoot in boston

You know those fancy, air-filled, arch-cushioned, expensive-as-hell sneakers that you buy to enhance your performance? Well, what if we told you they were most likely not only decreasing your performance, but increasing your likelihood of injury? You would probably call us crazy, but people thought Galileo was crazy once too.  Are we comparing ourselves to Galileo? No, great guy though.  What we are saying is that we are proponents of an idea which is growing in popularity and for some very good reasons.  Barefoot training has recently become popularized as a potential benefit in injury rehabilitation programs. It is also purported to serve as an additional means of injury prevention and to enhance athletic performance.  However, limited clinical research is currently available to justify this practice and even less information is available describing how one may go about safely implementing a barefoot training program.  This book explores the scientific and theoretical benefits concerning the merits of barefoot training and offers real life solutions and alternatives to all the things separating you and your feet from mother earth, including examples of specific programs and training progressions.  By the time you are through with this book, you will be part of the movement and your feet will be on their way to a happier, healthier version of their formerly miserable selves.

Topics: reduce injury risk, foot pain, foot fracture, barefoot strength training, Barefoot in Boston, achilles pain, barefoot running, barefoot training