FMS Suggests Low Injury Risk in Experienced Distance Runners

A new study used the FMS to determine whether distance runners are at an increased risk for injury.

Preventing injuries should be a major goal of any conditioning program for athletes. In a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, investigators looked at the use of a functional movement screen to examine injury potential in runners.

The aim of a functional movement screen is to determine injury risk. The movement screen used in this study examined multiple athletic qualities in a mixed population to see if runners might be vulnerable to injury. There were seven exercises in the movement screen. Each focused on different portions of the body, and some required different physical attributes.

The researchers used the following exercises:

  1. Deep squat
  2. Hurdle step
  3. In-line lunge
  4. Shoulder mobility
  5. Straight-leg raise
  6. Push up
  7. Rotary stability

After performing the exercises, each participant received a score ranging from zero to three. A score of three meant the exercise was performed with perfect form. A score of zero was received if the test couldn’t be performed without pain. So a perfect total score of 21 would indicate a low risk of injury based on physical factors. A person with a score near 0 was probably already suffering from several injuries and in need of a lot of help.

The 43 runners tested were of various ages and included both women and men. Interestingly, the authors did not indicate the experience level of the runners, but noted that they ran a minimum distance of 30km (18.6 miles) per week. There was no indication of how long the runners had been maintaining that minimum distance, but at least we know they were running a decent amount.

The average total score for all the runners was 16.4, with an average score of 2.3 for each exercise. These results were not too bad on a whole, and they suggest that regular runs may be good for maintaining health and remaining injury-free. Indeed, the researchers noted the runners’ scores were higher than a group of healthy and active non-athletes from a similar study. The runners did, however, score lower than a professional football team. However, a team of professional athletes is likely to have coaches dedicated to preventing injury, so this isn’t too surprising.

Between women and men, the scores were similar, but the women scored higher on tests that involved flexibility and mobility, particularly of the shoulders and ankles. They found no difference between men and women in the strength tests. The major differences in scores came from age. The average total score for athletes over forty was 13.9, or an average of just under two for each individual test. The men were, on average, older than the women, which could explain the lack of difference in strength mentioned above.

The authors noted that a score of less than fourteen can indicate an increased risk of injury. About thirty percent of the runners were at risk, and most of these were over the age of forty. If you’re a runner and looking to stay healthy and injury-free, a movement screen is a good idea, and spending time working on both balanced strength and mobility is paramount.


1. Janice Loudon, et. al., “Functional Movement Screen Scores in a Group of Running Athletes,Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(4), 2014.

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