The Assessment of Functional Movement in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Sports Med. 2022 Jan;52(1):37-53. doi: 10.1007/s40279-021-01529-3. Epub 2021 Sep 15.


Background: The Functional Movement Screen™ (FMS™) is an assessment of human movement that may signal potential deficits that could predispose an otherwise healthy person to injury risk. FMS™ scores are well reported in both athletic and adult samples. However, to date, there has been no comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis of FMS™ data among school-aged children and adolescents.

Objective: We aimed to systematically review and analyse functional movement proficiency of children and adolescents, specifically when assessed using the FMS™, and to establish initial normative values for the FMS™ in this population group and to further estimate differences in functional movement proficiency between the sexes, by school level (i.e., between primary and secondary school-level children and adolescents), and based on differences in child and adolescent body mass index (BMI).

Methods: In accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, prospective studies were identified from searches across eight databases (MEDLINE, SPORTDiscus, CINAHL, Web of Science, EMBASE, ERIC, PsychINFO and PubMed), without any date restrictions, up to December 2020. The primary meta-analysis estimated the overall FMS™ score for school-aged children and adolescents across published studies. An additional three subgroup meta-analyses estimated comparisons for FMS™ data with school level, sex, and BMI across published studies. FMS™ data were meta-analysed using a number of different meta packages (Schwarzer et al. in Meta-Analysis with R, 1st ed, Springer International Publishing, Berlin, 2015), available in R Studio.

Results: A total of 19 articles were included in the systematic review. Meta-analysis revealed a weighted FMS™ mean score of 14.06, with a standardised Tau value of 0.56, signalling a moderate-to-large degree of variability in FMS™ means between studies. The difference in FMS™ means between samples of males (weighted FMS™ mean 13.91) and females (weighted FMS™ mean 14.56) was compatible with a possible small effect size (standardised mean difference - 0.27). The variability in FMS™ means between studies was approximately five times greater in samples of secondary school children (factor difference in Tau values 5.16). The final meta-regression identified a negative association between BMI and FMS™ scores (r = - 0.42), which signalled a moderate-to-large difference in FMS™ scores between healthy weight and overweight children/adolescents.

Conclusion: This systematic review and meta-analysis represents a novel and important synthesis of published FMS™ data from groups of children and adolescents. The study signals possible sex- and age-related differences in FMS™ scores, as well as a clear negative relationship between BMI and functional movement proficiency. More longitudinal research is needed to better understand the developmental trajectory and the effects of maturation milestones on FMS™ proficiency. Additional research is also needed to identify the types of interventions that could improve functional movement proficiency among 'at risk' groups, who are susceptible to functional movement deficiency, and whether changes in body composition mediate the relationship between these interventions and the improvement of FMS™ scores.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Schools