Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Four predictive tests from STACK Expert Alex Allan help you pinpoint problem areas for injury prevention.

When gauging the likelihood of sports injuries, predictive tests are the next best thing to a crystal ball. These tests can identify risk factors that increase the odds of injury, while helping you determine areas that need special training attention.

Below are four predictive tests to help you pinpoint problem areas for injury prevention. Although they are no substitute for the advice of a qualified health care professional, they can be useful on their own if your issues are minor.

1. Star ExcursionTest

Area of Injury: ACL Knee/Ankle (Lower Extremity):

A study published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sport Physical Therapy found that high school atheltes with an anterior right/left reach distance difference greater than 4 cm were 2.5 times more likely to sustain a lower extremity injury. Girls with a combined reach distance less than 94 percent of their limb length were 6.5 times more likely to have a lower extremity injury.

Test: Stand on one leg with your foot in the center of a star marked with tape on the floor. Reach with your opposite leg in any direction as far as possible, touching the tape with either your forefoot or toes. Mark this point for future measurement.

Return to the starting position. Repeat the test if you're unable to maintain balance on the stance leg during the reaching motion, or if the reaching leg is used to provide support during the test. Tests should be performed to the front right side and left side.

Measure the distance of your leg from the front hip bone to the center of the knee cap. Try to reach that distance when you do the test. This should be the distance between your stance leg and the tip of your toes. Also, make sure there is less than a 4-cm difference between your left and right sides.

Exercises: Single-Leg Balance, Single-Leg Squat, Terminal Knee Extension for Quad/VMO and Clam Shells or any Glute Medius Stability exercises.

Learn 3 training keys for preventing ACL injuries.

2. Internal Rotation at 90 Degrees on Wall Test

Area of Injury: Shoulder and Elbow

GIRD, which stands for glenohumeral internal rotation deficit, is a condition that can affect overhead athletes when the amount of internal rotation available at the dominant shoulder is reduced by 20 degrees or more compared to their non-dominant side.

In a study of baseball players, pitchers with GIRD were nearly twice as likely to suffer shoulder injuries as those without the condition. Pitchers with total rotational motion deficit greater than 5 degrees also had a higher rate of injury. Another study found that bilateral differences in shoulder total rotation and flexion (throwing) had a significant effect on the risk for elbow injury in pitchers.

Test: Stand with your heels, tailbone, lower back and head contacting a wall. Your testing arm should be at your side, your shoulder down away from your ear. Position the other hand on top of your shoulder to make sure no motion occurs. Bend your elbow at 90 degrees and make sure it is level with your shoulder joint. Start to rotate the arm until it can go no further without the shoulder blade moving. There should be less than 20 degrees of difference between dominant and non-dominant arms.

Exercises: Posterior Shoulder Capsule Cross-Body Stretches, Internal Rotation Work with cable or tubing.

RELATED: Why Shoulder Injury Prevention Programs Are Failing

3. Low Back Endurance Test

Area of Injury: Lower Back

The Biering-Sorensen study found that good isometric endurance of the back muscles may prevent first-time occurrence of lower back pain in men, and that men with hyper-mobile backs are more likely to experience lower back trouble. Another Finnish study compared various tests and found that the Biering-Sorensen test is the best option for predictability.

Test: Lie face down with your ankles, knees and hips fixed to a test bench and your upper body extended in a cantilevered fashion over the edge of the bench. Rest your upper body on the floor before the exertion. At the beginning of the exertion, hold your upper limbs across your chest with your hands resting on opposite shoulders. Lift your upper body off the floor until your upper torso is parallel to the floor. Maintain the parallel position as long as possible.

According to low-back disorders guru Dr. Stuart McGill, men in their early 20s average 161 seconds and women average a whopping 185 seconds. Other studies have identified 58 seconds or less as the danger zone.

Exercises: Lumbar Spine Endurance Holds and back stability during extremity movement.

RELATED: 3 Quick Fixes for Low-Back Pain

4. Single-Leg Balance Test

Area of Injury: Ankle

A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that among 230 high school and college male and female athletes, the preseason Single-Leg Balance test significantly predicted susceptibility to ankle sprain injury. Specifically, lack of a previous ankle sprain and failure to tape increased the likelihood of ankle sprains in athletes with a positive SLB test. This has been supported by several other injury prevention studies.

Test: Stand on one foot without shoes with your opposite knee bent and not touching your weight-bearing leg. Keep your hips level to the ground, eyes fixed on a spot marked on the wall and then closed for 10 seconds. Report any sense of imbalance. An investigator will note if your legs touched each other, your feet moved on the floor, your foot touched down or your arms moved from their start position.

The goal is simple. Stand on each foot for 10 seconds with your eyes closed without significant sway, loss of balance or one limb contacting the other.

Exercise: Aim to hold your balance for 10 seconds with your eyes closed without significant sway, loss of balance or contact between the legs.

RELATED: Simple Ways to Treat or Prevent an Ankle Sprain

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock