FA Conference and a Bit of Overhead Squat Comment.

Just back from the FA National Game conference, a multidisciplinary football focused event which was brilliant to be involved with. I was in grand company, with the ever engaging and wonderfully motivating Kelvin Giles teeing it up for the absolute importance of key movement foundations, and Sid Ahamed really focusing us on child development from a skeletal point of view. Sure you know what Osgood Schlatters is, but have you actually seen what is happening from a structural mechanics point of view? Wow! We had physios, coaches, S and C and sports science all represented, which was right up my street - you know I love to build the relationships between professionals. We need to be speaking the same language!

The audience got a double dose of JEMS®, looking at Movement Efficacy in lecture 1 and Functional Force Management in the Lower Zone in lecture 2, and they did me proud by getting stuck into a few spontaneous movement explorations with gusto. I probably ruffled a few feathers along the way – I thought that generating the discussion on the relevance of overhead squat for football if you have limited time to get the most relevant player information might be fun. If you really need to know whether the player can drop their centre of gravity effectively in balance, then confounding the task with thoracic and shoulder mobility can really muddy the waters in terms of what the action plan might be, unless overhead squat is a component of the S and C programme. 

Many players come in with stiff thoracic spines which preclude them from achieving the overhead position, or which cause them to compensate with lumbar extension.

So if they can’t perform the test, what do we know? Have we found out whether the player can effectively drop his centre of gravity, a critical component in change of direction and momentum control? Have we learned something about the hip/pelvis/spine relationship when performing such a task? 

The answer is no.

Has the test generated an action plan? Well, thoracic and shoulder mobility in the sagittal plane would be the relevant action, but is the very limited time available to you going to be allocated in this direction?


However, if you have a great reason for wanting to test it, other than that everyone else is testing it, go right ahead.

If you want to know about movement relevant to football, then use a test that  gives you this information. The simplest thing to look at is a natural squat — the arms are straight out in front or crossed over the chest to enable us to examine lower zone mechanics without the confounding variables of shoulder elevation mechanics.

Basic rule: For every test you do, ask yourself “So what?”. If you can’t answer the question, or if the answer does not lead to a clear and relevant action plan, you need to question relevance and role of the test.

Note that I am not saying that thoracic mobility is not important – multidirectional mobility, especially rotational mobility is critical in football. That is not the issue here, however. The point is whether the test you are using gives you the information you need about the player’s strategies and capabilities to meet his functional needs.

There were a few bemused faces, but quite a few showing some relief. Some folk had been feeling bad about not testing the overhead squat due to time constraints and other difficulties. I’d say, look at your resources, look at what you need to know, and look at the pay off for each test you use. Look for the tests with greatest value in terms of meaningful information. Understand what you want to find out, and then act on your findings. 

All in all, I had a great time meeting great people who genuinely care about the young developing athletes in their care, and learning how best to nurture them for the future. Thanks to Mike Healy, Head of FA Medical Education for the invitation.


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