Research Project: Analysis of Overhead Squat, Gait, and Hurdle Step Performance

My biomechanics project involves the performing and analysis of three different functionality tests: the deep squat, the step-over, and walking on a treadmill. The use of these functional tests is to help bridge the gap between pre-participation screenings and performance tests. Filming these “Functional Movement Screens” helped provide and excellent illustration of biomechanical function, tissue deficits, and a prediction of performance levels in athletics and any physical activity (Burton et al 2006).  The subject of this experiment is 21 year old subject at a height of 5’5” and a weight of 170 lbs.  
            The squat is the movement most important in most athletic events because it is the athletic stance that requires overall lower-body power. When properly tested, it can evaluate total body mechanics including bilateral, symmetrical, and functional mobility of the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, and thoracic spine. The ability to perform this functional test exercise requires closed-kinetic chain dorsiflexion of the ankles, flexion of the knees and hips, extension of the thoracic spine, and flexion and abduction of the shoulders. (Burton et al 2006). The score for this functional test done by the subject in the video was assigned a value of between a 2 and a 3 because most of the ideal form was achieved but the torso and overhead dowel was slightly off balance.
            There were several factors analyzed in the video of the deep squats with the overhead dowel. Most obviously during the anterior view, the torso and overhead dowel are slightly off balance for basically the whole time. There is a slight lateral bending to one side and the dowel dips somewhat to that side as well. This seems to be due to the subject’s significantly lower values for right shoulder flexion and abduction than the left shoulder. This shoulder range of motion imbalance is obvious during extreme end range motion brought on by this overhead squat and may have thrown the torso slightly off balance as well, hence the lateral bending. The lack of shoulder range of motion and pain in this exercise position was later confirmed by the subject. There also seems to be some excessive dorsiflexion especially at the bottom portion of the squat, most likely because of the deepness of the squat and the bodyweight being placed through the heels. This was most likely a measure of the subject trying to retain his balance during the difficult lower phase of the deep squat.    
            The hurdle step challenges the body’s proper stride mechanics during stepping motion. This movement requires correct stability and coordination between the hips and torso during stepping motion as well as single leg stability. This functional test exercise evaluates and assesses the bilateral function mobility and stability of the hips, knees, and ankles. Performing this functional test exercise requires stance-leg stability of the ankle, knee, and hip as well as maximal closed-kinetic chain extension of the hip. Person performing the hurdle step must have strong step-leg open-kinetic chain dorsiflexion of the ankle and flexion of the knee and hip. Also, they must demonstrate the necessary balance to meet the dynamic stability requirement of this exercise (Burton et al 2006).
            There were some major elements of the hurdle step that were analyzed as well in the video tape. There was a significant amount of hip external rotation during the phase where the leg steps back over the bar. There also seemed to be just enough hip flexion to get over the bar and return to the starting position, very little or no extra. At some points there was even trunk extension in what looked like an effort to compensate for lack of active hip flexion range of motion. This makes sense when referring to the fact that active hip flexion was only 95 and 90 degrees from neutral for the right and left hips respectively, lower than most individual’s hip flexion range of motion. Slight pain and irritation were noted by the subject during his maximal hip flexion as well. Along with this eversion of the hip, there seemed to be excessive supination of the feet of the step-over leg as well.  This appears to have been another effort to more easily clear the bar during step-overs to compensate for a lack of active hip flexion  
            Gait analysis is another extremely important functional test for any patient of athlete. Ambulation is used everyday and should be done efficiently to minimize fatigue, injuries, and maintain coordination and is a very important indicator of an athlete’s or patient’s ability to perform effectively in most physical activities. A few factors were obvious to analyze during the subject’s gait. First off, there is a very significant external rotation of the foot as measured by the foot angle during the posterior recording of gait. For a normal individual this value is approximately 7 degrees but significantly greater in the subject. This gait abnormality could be due to the fact that his inversion range of motion values for the ankle were extremely low, about 10 degrees on each foot. Subjects shoulders are protracted at least slightly during all aspects of the gait cycle as noted during body measurements.
            There are many other conflicting variables that could have had an affect on the performance level of these functional tests. As the subject, I think a few factors should be explained that may or may not have shown up in the videos or in the measurements. First off, I was a competitive gymnast from ages 8-13 and practiced/competed many times on ankle injuries which could possibly explain my extremely low range of motion in many ankle movements. I have Osgood Schlatters from being a competitive runner all through high school and have had knee soreness and right hip flexor soreness often over the past 5 years or so. On top of that, I have previously been diagnosed with muscle guarding in the lower spine, a lordotic lumbar spine, and right shoulder tendonitis/bursitis/impingement syndrome. All of these conditions may have been relevant to the video diagnosis and in the measurements taken as well. 
Works Cited

Burton, Lee; Cook, Gray; Hoogenboom, Burton. “Pre-Participation Screening: The Use of Fundamental Movements As An Assessment of Function- Part 1”. North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy May 2006, Volume 1, Number 2. Pages 62-68.

Neumann, Donald A. “Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Physical Rehabilitation”. Mosby Inc. 2002.

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