The legend of Bo Jackson, Greg Oden, Tracy McGrady, and Andrew Luck; the notable athletes just mentioned are all known for accomplishing astonishing feats on the playing field. What would their careers look like if they weren’t always injured? The best way to minimize chronic injury is to eliminate compensatory movements in the body. Compensatory movement patterns lead to injuries that will derail an athlete’s progress. In my last blog post, I concluded that you could not be a dominant athlete if the stable joints in your body are not stable, and the mobile joints are not mobile, let’s continue the conversation.
COMPENSATORY MOVEMENT PATTERN OVERVIEW
A limited range of motion that forces the body to find another neuromuscular pathway to movement is known as a compensatory movement pattern(O’Connell, 2012). Address these deficiencies early in an athlete’s training to reduce the risk of injury. I experienced deficiency issues with my ankles that led to multiple injuries and the end of my playing career.
I hurt my lower back while playing football after college. During my rehab, I worked extensively with a respected physical therapist who took a holistic approach to rehab. At the beginning of my therapy, she asked about my previous injuries. She was particularly interested in the fact that I had a history of rolling my ankles. After running a few bend and lift screens, she noted that my ankles lacked the appropriate range of motion to complete the lift. My stiff ankles led to a lack of mobility in my hips, which forced my lumbar spine to compensate for my athletic movements. My ankles were the root cause of my injuries in the last ten years. Unfortunately, my story is all too common.
IDENTIFYING MOVEMENT DEFICIENCIES
The good news is that compensatory patterns are identifiable and fixable. Compensatory patterns would be exposed through a series of movement screens. One of the more popular movement screens in the health industry is the functional movement screen. It helps to get certified in these screens, but it’s not necessary. Most trainers have some form of a screen that they run to identify deficiencies. I screen the following movement patterns before developing strength and power in my athletes:
- Bend and Lift: Squatting, moving stationary objects (Comana, 2010).
- Single-leg Proprioception: an athlete’s ability and awareness while on one leg.
- Lunge: To assess the ankle’s range of motion in dorsiflexion.
- Apley’s Scratch Test: Assess the range of motion of the glenohumeral joint
- Toe Touch: Decipher hip, lower back, and core issues concerning flexibility and mobility.
- Primitive Movement: Rolling, pushing, crawling, standing assessment.
Once compensation patterns are identified, it’s the fitness professional’s job to develop a plan to correct the weaknesses. In my case, I had to run through a series of stretches for my ankle, strengthen my glutes, and strengthen my obliques to restore my natural pattern. I’m still working on perfecting my deficiencies a whole five years later.
“Many compensation patterns are subtle or hardly noticeable and grow over time to a larger scaled compensation. This ‘domino effect’ is detrimental to an individual’s Biomechanical Integrity and Movement Quality.” -(Rosengart, 2016)
COMMON COMPENSATORY PATTERNS
Due to our sit in a desk and car all day, while staring at screens, lifestyles, certain deficiencies are more common than others. Here is a list of some of the most common ones and their causes.
Valgus knee movement: The knee joint moves inward, commonly caused by a lack of stability in the ankle and/or hip. This movement can easily lead to a torn ACL.
Glute amnesia syndrome: This dysfunction causes the neuromuscular connection to the gluteus or posterior hip muscle to turn off. Glute amnesia syndrome is often caused by not using your glute or hip muscles enough.
Anterior or posterior pelvic tilt: The pelvis tilts forward (anterior) or backward (posterior). Anterior pelvic tilts can cause issues with lower back, thoracic spine alignment, and the sciatica nerve. Posterior pelvic tilt can lead to sway-back, an excessive amount of extension that puts unnecessary pressure on the discs and vertebrae.
Winged scapula: The scapula becomes internally rotated and tilted forward, creating a winged effect. The winged look is a sign of muscle weakness around the scapula and causes pectorals and traps to compensate.
Shoulder impingement: The tissue beneath the acromion process becomes compressed while the shoulder is in motion, causing pain. This compression can lead to tears and ruptures. This movement is usually caused by repetitive pushing exercises that create an overactive and tight pectoral, anterior delt, and upper trapezius.
The best way to minimize chronic injury is to eliminate compensatory movements in the body. Compensatory changes will elevate an athlete’s chances of injury and diminish their ability to perform. Ensure that athletes take the extra time early on in their training to prehab these movements and increase their chances of performing safely and execute their movements at an optimal level.
Burton, L., & Cook, G. (2013, December 17). The Importance of Primitive Patterns. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.functionalmovement.com/articles/430/the_importance_of_primitive_patterns
Comana, F. (2010, April/May). Personal Training for the 21st Century. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/644/personal-training-for-the-21st-century/
Jack, N. (2016, December 22). WHY POOR ANKLE MOBILITY CAN CAUSE A CHAIN REACTION OF INJURY. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.noregretspt.com.au/index.php/resources/blog/43-2014/248-why-poor-ankle-mobility-can-cause-a-chain-reaction-of-injury
O’Connell, K. (2012, September 17). Limited Range of Motion. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/limited-range-of-motion
Rosengart, M. (2016, April 16). List of Common Compensation Patterns and Movement Dysfunctions. Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.prehabexercises.com/compensation-patterns/