Athletes and fans don’t often think about injuries until that cringe-worthy moment when they actually happen. 

And when they do happen, they’re often viewed as unavoidable freak accidents that derail bright, young careers; what a shame, and no one saw it coming.

But Dan Leary thinks that a quick, easy test can help Seaside High School prevent more injuries and keep Seagull athletes out on the field, court, track or in the pool competing.

The Functional Movement Screen, or FMS, allows Leary, the high school’s strength and conditioning coach, to quickly determine and evaluate an athlete’s range of motion and spot any possible trouble spots that could lead to future injury.

The seven-step FMS process gives Leary a chance to see “what a kid is like movement-wise before they even go out on a practice field,” he said.

FMS comprises seven exercises, which Leary then scores, from zero to three.

A “three” means an athlete is accomplishing the exercise without any compensations; a “two” means the athlete can perform the exercise but must resort to poor mechanics; a “one” means the athlete cannot perform the task, even with compensations; and a zero means an athlete experienced pain during the exercise.

The exercises are a deep squat, hurdle step, in-line lunge, shoulder mobility, active straight-leg raise, trunk stability push-up and rotary stability.

“The first thing I look for is a zero,” Leary said as Jetta Ideue—an eighth grader who plays softball, basketball and volleyball—went through the seven exercises. “If we get a zero, we send them out medically.”

Thankfully for Ideue, she received no “zero” marks: She scored a 17 out of a possible 21, which placed her comfortably above the “14” line, where Leary would be wary of letting Ideue compete athletically.

Leary has employed the FMS system with all the seniors on the Seaside High School football team and has gradually introduced the system to more of the school’s athletes and teams.

For Leary, the goal is for athletes to understand their particular range of motion and where they might need to increase their mobility. And, of course, if they are experiencing any pain during the FMS process.

“We want to help them move better, because when they move better they excel athletically, and there’s less chance of injury,” Leary said.

If an athlete falls somewhere between “in pain” and full mobility, Leary is able to outline a specific training regimen tailored for that athlete.

“We put them into a comprehensive program and print out a list of corrective exercises,” Leary said.

The injury-prevention and treatment work Leary does has been augmented by Chad Rankin, a certified athletic trainer from Columbia Memorial Hospital who visits area schools to consult with coaches and treat athletes; Rankin is at Seaside High School one day a week.

“It’s been a really good relationship,” Rankin said of working with Leary and the Seaside staff.

Because the FMS test is objective, it offers an easy way for Leary, Rankin and coaches to discuss an athlete’s injury or susceptibility to injury with the athlete’s parents or guardians.

“It’s empirical evidence to bring to parents,” Leary said. “We make sure the parents are on board; it’s unbiased.”

And the more empirical diagnosis gleaned from the FMS exercises can often help Leary work with athletes who may not feel injury-prone and are reluctant to deal with the potential issue.

“When kids see that objectively show—not tell—when they see that, they buy into that and work to go and get better,” Leary said.

Rankin has been impressed by Seaside High School’s commitment to strength training and injury prevention.

“What they do is fantastic,” he said. “They do more than any other school in the area.”

FMS is just one component of a comprehensive strength training and fitness program that Leary hopes can keep the Seagulls strong and injury-free.

And if the numerous state tournament trips by Seaside High School teams this season are any indication, the Seagull athletes are taking Leary’s training and injury-prevention programs to heart.

From his vantage, Leary believes that the focus on fitness has aided—and will continue to aid—the high school’s athletes.

“We’re doing our best to keep our kids explosive, fast and bulletproof,” he said.

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