Two weeks ago we discussed the need to create an objective test to track and diagnose upper body injuries. In short, we developed a closed chain force plate assessment called the Sway Scan that can quickly and accurately tell us how an athlete’s upper body is responding to injury. The test is a valuable tool for initial diagnosis of injuries. The athletes’ physical position in the Sway test emphasizes their ability to stabilize and absorb force throughout their entire body, making it a more valid measurement than passive tests because it more closely resembles the physical intensity an athlete will encounter in their sport.
We have also developed a version of the Sway Scan called the Stability Scan that we use more to determine an athlete’s ability to Return to Play. The goal of the Sway Scan is for the athlete to stabilize (their center of pressure) as quickly as possible – which is a good measurement – but we also want to create an environment where the athlete can generate as much force as possible. A lot of the upper body injuries we see come from impact (sliding in baseball, player collision in football, boards contact in hockey, etc.) so the test also needs to evaluate the athletes’ ability to absorb larger amounts of force (like they will see in their sport). In these cases the athlete will drop off an elevated surface and land on one limb (instead of starting on the force plate) – we call this the Stability Scan. The goal is still to stabilize as quickly as possible, but dropping from a raised surface dramatically increases the difficulty level.
The combination of the these two tests gives us valuable data so that we can continually refine our evidence based training prescriptions. For example, we compare right and left limbs to monitor the balance between the two sides of an athlete’s body. Because the force plate is so sensitive, this balance can be monitored very delicately which is especially critical for our throwing athletes (pitchers, quarterback, etc.). Just like the Sway Scan, the Stability Scan evaluates the athletes ability to stabilize their whole body (not just the shoulder) so we can correlate the test results to a greater need for over-all trunk stability.