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Three Functional Performance Tests for Lower Body Rehabilitation

Injuries occur in all sports. That can be the price we pay for playing the sports that we love. Unfortunately, I was one of those athletes that got bit by the injury bug. You know when you’re injury prone when you go to the hospital and everyone knows your name. When playing football I had a serious knee injury that sidelined me for a while. After a long rehab process, in order to return to football I had to perform numerous functional tests. No body said the rehab process was easy or fun. When you take your rehab serious all the hard work can pay off.
Physical attributes required for high-level activities include muscular strength, power, endurance, flexibility, balance, proprioception, speed, agility, and functional movement patterns (Manske 2013). When athletes are injured, these physical components can be decreased. A safe return to full activity or competitive sports requires a complete return of these attributes. Tests can be measured using standardized clinical testing: manual muscle, endurance, and goniometry.
Before Functional Testing Begins
Before the performance of functional testing implementation, several activities should occur. To reduce the risk of injury or decrease post activity muscle soreness, create a warm-up that includes a dynamic warm up and mobility (foam roll, baseball) before maximal effort testing. To decrease the risk of injury, it is important to break down the test step by step of how to do it. When I am training someone on how to perform the exercise I have them perform a practice trial. Practice sessions to familiarize athletes with the procedures aid in reproducibility and maximum effort (Manske 2013). There are multiple ways to perform a single test. A single-leg hop for distance can be performed with hands on the hips, with hands clasped behind the back, or with hands and arms to gain momentum while hopping. Each method may allow the athlete to hop a different distance. A compensatory pattern may occur with functional performance test (FPT) when the athlete exhibits a weakness (Manske 2013).
Functional Performance Tests for Power
Lower Extremity Power Tests
Power is work divided by time, velocity is the key component. The vertical jump test can assess overall lower extremity power, bilaterally or unilaterally.
Vertical Jump
The vertical jump test can be done with a piece of chalk. The vertical jump test is an explosive anaerobic power exercise. To begin, the athlete stands with equal weight on both limbs while reaching as high as possible with a single arm. The athlete jumps or hops as high as possible. The score is the distance between the first reach and the second.
Power tests for the lower extremities the entire lower body rather than isolated tests of the hip, knee, or ankle. The propulsive phase of vertical jump on a force plate shows that the hip contributes 40% of the total jump force; the knee, 24%; and the ankle, 36% (Manske 2013). The more explosive you arm swing is can increase your vertical jump height. The vertical jump should be performed before standing long jump.
Standing Long Jump
With the standing long jump, because vertical and horizontal forces are active during takeoff and landing, this test may be more stressful than the vertical jump and should be tested later in rehabilitation.
Single-Leg Hop
For the single-leg hop, the score is the distance from the start to the location of the posterior heel of the landing leg. Healthy men did not differ in distance hopped, compared with the uninvolved limb of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) patients at 13 and 54 weeks following reconstruction (Manske 2013).This can be useful because the uninvolved leg, regardless of limb dominance, can be used as a control when evaluating return to sports following knee ligament reconstruction. Others studies have found significant differences observed between right and left limbs of athletes, suggesting that the uninjured limb cannot be used as a control. The single-leg hop is simple and can be used in isolation or with a combination of quick field tests to determine knee function (Manske 2013). In the lower extremities, it can be clearly seen that each test has limitations. Using a variety of tests can be used to better determine function than any single test in isolation. When using a variety of hop tests, different hop numbers can be evaluated and the opportunity to detect problems in hop performance.
At COR we bridge the gap between rehabilitation and performance. Our team ensures a speedy recovery, by first removing pain. Next, restoring movement is key with the physical therapist. Then, when rehabilitation finishes, our staff of personal trainers primes the athlete for the return to the field, with elite functional testing.
Manske R, Reiman M. Functional performance testing for power and return to sports. Sports Health. 2013 May;5(3):244-50.
Written by Chris Barber, CPT