Is your sport causing you pain? Let’s go to the video

March 8, 2018 Allison Milionis


Providence Sports Medicine offers movement assessments for all types and levels of activities – from swimmers to dancers, pro soccer players to high school athletes. A golf swing analysis can help you swing with ease, a bike fit assessment can increase the comfort and power of your ride.


“If you have a goal to improve the performance of your particular activity, an assessment can help,” says Erika Lewis, physical therapist, clinical advancement program lead for sports therapy, and a specialist in form analysis. If pain is associated with your activity, then we’ll recommend physical therapy. “If we find something concerning about your injury that therapy may not be the right answer for, we’ll refer to you to a physician.”


Time for professional help

Several years ago I stopped jogging. I wasn’t able to increase my distance because my knees ached during and after a run, and sometimes my low back and feet did too. I wrote it off as a sign of aging, and a hereditary weakness – my dad had suffered from knee problems most his life.


Although I replaced jogging with other activities, I missed it terribly. I bought new running shoes and gave it another shot. The shoes helped my feet but my knees still ached. I wondered if there were adjustments I could make to my form to reduce the discomfort and risk of injury, and maybe even increase my endurance.  


That’s how I found myself on a treadmill at Providence Sports Care Center in Portland undergoing a movement analysis.


A movement analysis, also called a performance analysis or movement screen, is a survey of an individual’s movement patterns. It combines an examination of one’s physical structure with measurements of their function during a particular activity. Movement analysis helps superior athletes and people like me in performance, injury prevention and recovery.


Jogging for the camera

My appointment at Providence Sports Medicine was with Lewis. We had a short phone chat a few days before the appointment so I could prepare. Lewis recommended that I bring my running shoes and socks, wear a contrasting top and bottom (for better visibility in the video), and to be prepared to walk and jog on a treadmill.


My one-hour session at the Sports Care Center started with Lewis asking me about my physical activities and my goals. Then she sized up my movements as I went through a series of exercises to test flexibility, balance and strength. Right away she noted a reduced range of motion in my ankles and knees, excessive rotation in my right and left hips, and a few other mechanical quirks that I’d probably been born with.


After the tests, I followed Lewis into a busy gym at the center of the complex where clients were performing a wide range of exercises under the watchful eyes of therapists. Lewis set her camera on the tripod behind a treadmill. I got on and walked at a brisk, natural pace for about one minute while Lewis videotaped from a couple different angles. Then I increased the speed of the treadmill to a jog.


I kept my eyes trained on a point in front of me to help with balance, but also for focus. I wanted to be tuned into my movements, to feel my foot strike or that quirky rotation of my hips that Lewis had observed during the exercises. I kept the pace for a minute or so before Lewis signaled me to stop.


Back in the sport analysis lab we sat in front of a computer monitor watching my treadmill exercises in slow motion. Lewis pointed out subtle idiosyncrasies in my movements: My left leg is more stable than my right in the walk. My right hip rotates and drops in the jog, less so in the walk. I have slight pronation on the left, more on the right. There was a lot of information to take in but Lewis expertly explained the unique mechanics of my movements. “It’s like your fingerprint,” she said.


Lewis made several recommendations that can help my jogging: Foremost, shorten my stride in the walk and maintain it in the jog, and then increase the cadence. I can build endurance and strength by jogging three minutes for every two minutes of walking within a 30-minute session, at least 2-3 times a week. She also recommended exercises to strengthen my core and gluteal muscles, and stretches to increase flexibility in my left ankle. By the time my session was over, I had a lot of useful information and some new tools to help me restart my jogging program. It was a good feeling.


Improve your performance with assessment

In most cases a single assessment is enough to help you in your activity, but a second or third session can be beneficial. It depends on your personal goals. For example, if you plan to run a 5K in the next month then Lewis suggests coming in a couple times over a two-week period. If your goals are long-term, then allowing a month or so between visits will give you time to work on the recommended exercises and see how they help improve your performance and/or decrease pain or discomfort. Follow-up assessments, especially if paired with physical therapy, will help you chart your recovery, and also reduce further risk of injury.


Sign up for an assessment

Movement assessments through Providence Sports Medicine are a cash-based service, which means a referral from a primary care provider isn’t required by most health plans. Physical therapists work with care teams, trainers or coaches as needed. This is especially beneficial for middle and high school athletes, or club sport members who are returning to activities following an injury.


To learn more about Providence Sports Medicine or make an appointment for an assessment, click here, or call 1-855-33-SPORT.


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