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Evaluating Your Child’s Movement and Risk of Injury

Proper body alignment and stability can greatly influence a young athlete’s risk for injury. The HSS Sports Safety Program has developed a free online class for parents on how to assess a child’s movement.

As kids, most of us were not taught how to jump. Though it may seem pretty elementary, the majority of young athletes actually do it wrong. “It seems so fundamental, like anyone can do it,” says Joseph Janosky, Director of the Youth Sports Safety Program at HSS. “But do they do it safely, with the proper technique? It turns out that as much as 90 percent of kids don’t.”

photo of children running through a field

The HSS Youth Sports Safety Program has developed a free online class for parents that instructs them on how to do a movement screening with their child at home to evaluate form and spot potential issues. “It’s as easy as using a phone to record your child doing certain movements, and then looking for specific risk factors, like whether their knees come together when they jump and land or their head falls forward when they squat,” Janosky says. If parents spot a problem, the course offers a host of resources from HSS, including virtual visits with performance staff at HSS, virtual training camps, and recommendations for local pediatric sports medicine professionals.

Janosky, along with Daphne Ling, PhD, and colleagues in the HSS Sports Medicine Institute recently completed a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine showing that with verbal cues, young athletes greatly improve their ability to complete athletic movements correctly and reduce their chance of injury. That’s why it’s so important for parents, coaches and physical education teachers to understand how to evaluate a child’s movement.

As part of community outreach efforts at HSS, members of the Youth Sports Safety team conduct screenings of middle and high school athletes throughout the tristate area – a more comprehensive version of the screening in the free online class for parents. “We ask kids to do very basic moves like squats or jumps that allow us to determine if they’re moving properly,” says Janosky. During the screenings, the team looks to assess two fundamental aspects of a child’s movement: body segment alignment and stability. Similar tests are included in the parent workshop.

The team records the screening sessions and points out problem areas. (By and large, most kids have room for improvement.) They also give kids and their parents a report detailing factors that increase their risk of injury, as well as resources for parents to help their kids improve the quality of their movement – and decrease injury risk.

To sign up for the virtual class for parents, visit https://sports-safety.hss.edu/p/evaluate-movement. To sign up for a virtual training camp, visit HSS Sports Medicine Institute Events | Eventbrite.