Prediction and injury risk based on movement patterns and flexibility in a 6-month prospective study among physically active adults

PeerJ. 2021 May 18:9:e11399. doi: 10.7717/peerj.11399. eCollection 2021.


Background: Physical activity has many health benefits but also carries a risk of injury. Some universal factors are connected with an increased risk regardless of the type of sport. Identifying these factors may help predict injuries and aid in their prevention.

Aim: The aim of this study is to determine the level of injury risk and the accuracy of injury prediction during a prospective 6-month period based on the quality of movement patterns and level of flexibility among average physically active young adults.

Material and methods: A group of 123 young, physically active adults were recruited for this study. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was used to determine their level of physical activity. The authors own Injury History Questionnaire (IHQ) was used to retrospectively collect injury data from the 12 months before the study and prospectively collect data during the six month observation period. The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) test was conducted to assess the movement patterns quality and a sit-and-reach test was conducted to measure lower back and hamstrings flexibility.

Results: Low-quaility movement patterns (14 FMS) increased the injury risk level sevenfold. A level of flexibility reduced by one cm increased the risk of injury by 6%. Previous injuries also increased the risk of injury reccurence 6.4 times. Predicting injury occurrence based on the quality of movement patterns allows for an accuracy of 73%, whereas flexibility allows for a 41% accuracy. The simultaneous use of these two factors did not improve injury prediction accuracy.

Conclusion: The risk of an injury increases with low-quality movement patterns, a low level of flexibility, and previous injuries. Preventative strategies should include shaping high-quality movement patterns, the right level of flexibility, and the full healing of injuries before resuming activities. The quality of movement patterns is an accurate predictor of injury risk, but lower back and hamstrings flexibility is not a reliable predictor of injury.

Keywords: FMS; Flexibility; Functional Movement Screen; Injury; Injury prediction; Injury risk; Movement patterns; Physical activity; Young adults.

Grants and funding

The authors received no funding for this work.