During my tenure as Head Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Dayton, we developed our basketball athletes to be strong, explosive, and in peak physical condition. Unfortunately, despite being strong and physically fit, my first two years were riddled with player injuries. My athlete’s inability to have consistent, uninterrupted training due to injury derailed the regular seasons and post-season play.
While I realized I wasn’t capable of preventing all injuries, I was confounded: why were our athletes getting injured when their physical capacity to perform was enhanced? After all, resistance training helps strengthen muscle and tendons while increasing the flexibility of the ligaments, thus decreasing the risk of one becoming strained or torn. Heck, even the athletic trainers and I were comprehensive to screen athletes for agonist and antagonist muscle strength imbalances (i.e., isokinetic hamstring:quadriceps ratios) to identify possessing a predisposition for injury, but to no advantage.
Then, at the 2007 NSCA Coaches Conference, I attended a lecture by Gray Cook and was enlightened when Gray held that all things being equal, strength helps athletes prevent injuries, but all things are not equal with our athletes. He expanded that most coaches do not have a strategy to assess movement, so alternative ways of exercising or stretching get administered in the pre-participation process during the pre-season. He expanded that if an athlete has dysfunction and can’t even get into the position of a movement screen or can’t complete the pattern, it begs the question: is that athlete ready to take exercises up to the next level? Enlightened, I attended a two-day FMS Summer Seminar in Boston, got certified, bought my FMS Test Kit and returned to Dayton; more knowledgeable and wholly inspired with a reliable way to look at movement and an enhanced approach to train my athletes.
Initially, implementation of the FMS went great – scheduled training times got cut, and movement screens got planned in their absence. While that sounds like a logical and straightforward measure, it proved to be quite challenging. Screening 30 athletes took two-days per team due to schedule restraints – NCAA weekly time allowances, scheduled practice times, individual workouts, recovery treatment, and academic obligations. Once the season started, the chance to movement screen got further restrained due to gameplay and travel. Quickly I realized my most precious commodity as a strength coach wasn’t the need for a more substantial weight room with added equipment – it was time! Despite all the time and work the FMS required, the movement screen proved valuable. While we didn’t develop the season we had predicted in 2008, athlete injury wasn’t a contributing factor to under-achievement. Nevertheless, I continued examining ways to make better use of my time-starved schedule.
One of the things that troubled me with scheduling movement screens was the fact I had to eliminate 2-days of training to test. When I considered twelve possible training days afforded per month, movement re-screens excluded over 15% of my allotted monthly training time. Furthermore, the time gap between when I screened and re-screened created a void – I didn’t have an appropriate measure of knowing if the corrective exercise strategy was improving the athlete’s movement pattern.
Identifying a link between monitoring findings and incidence of injury to prevent them before they happen is perhaps the ‘holy grail’ in coaching. While the FMS screen highlighted potential risk factors, monitoring changes from a baseline to intervene and stop a problem from progressing proved inopportune. Four weeks would lapse before I could establish if a corrective exercise strategy enabled better movement patterns. As a strength coach, the faster you can feedback the data to athletes and sports coaches, the better; this helps immensely with “buy-in” and also provides an opportunity to have discussions on live data, rather than just what happened last month.
The self-epiphany to turn a dynamic warm-up into a movement screen came on an afternoon; a Saturday after a heavy day of squatting. I scheduled that afternoon to do some sprint work and needed to get the “stiffness” out, so I began my dynamic warm-up. The warm-up wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but something “clicked” in my head as I started doing an inchworm down the hallway outside my weight room located in the Don Donoher Center that was attached to the University of Dayton Arena. The Inchworm had been a staple in the athletes dynamic warm-up for years, but that particular day hamstring tightness limited my ability to perform the movement entirely. Immediately, I laid on my back and completed the FMS Active Straight Leg Raise. Both actions quickly revealed I had a mobility issue. That was my “ah-ha” moment!
That signal propelled me to devise a way to make my dynamic warm-up a movement screen. I recognized each day we practiced or lifted; a dynamic warm-up consistently led training. The undertaking to change a traditional movement screen from the occasional testing model to a more frequent monitoring model so a minimal detectable change could be recognized and amended without sacrificing training time was the originality behind the Dynamic Warmup Movement Assessment’s conception.
This happening occurred in May 2008, and over the next three years, void of weighty injuries owed largely to DWMA, the Dayton Flyers Basketball programs experience improved and sustained success. The men’s team captured an NCAA Tournament Appearance to the Round of 32 (2009) and an NIT National Championship (2010). In the same period, the women’s team seized an A-10 Conference Tournament Championship (2012), three NCAA Tournament Appearances (2010, 2011, 2012) with one advancing to the Round of 32 (2010).