Lower extremity functional tests (LEFT) comprise of a series of tests used to assess an athlete’s capability to return to sport following rehabilitation; such tests can also be used as a means of screening an individual for risk of future injury and for optimising performance.
Another advantage of using LEFTs is the identification of abnormal movement patterns and postural misalignments that can lead to the development of injuries of the lower extremity such as patellofemoral dysfunction.
Brumitt et al. sought to determine the ability of LEFT as a preseason screening tool for identifying collegiate athletes who are at an increased risk for a time-loss, sports-related low back or lower extremity injury.
193 athletes from 15 university teams performed the standing long jump test, the single-leg hop test and other lower extremity functional testing, after which they were assessed during their sports season for the occurrence of low back or lower extremity injury.
The authors found that preseason scores on the functional testing and single-leg hop test for distance were associated with an increased risk of low back and lower extremity injury in Division III collegiate athletes.
While testing the reliability of five lower extremity functional screening tests, Whatman et al. recruited twenty-five participants with no musculoskeletal problems; the authors wanted to investigate the within- and between-day reliability of peak 3D trunk and lower extremity kinematics during these tests.
At the end of the study, the authors concluded that the reliability of peak 3D kinematics during the descent phase of the lower extremity functional tests is acceptable for the majority of kinematic variables of interest to physiotherapists.
Since functional testing helps in replicating the kinematics encountered during a specific task, LEFTs help the clinician in gaining a better understanding of the kinematics exhibited during functional tasks such as walking, running, etc.
In the event that biomechanical irregularities are determined, MASS4D® customised foot orthotics can be integrated into active rehabilitation programmes to promote speedy healing of the athlete and to enhance functional performance.
The individual is able to make a smooth return to the sport and the management of lower extremity abnormalities helps in preventing recurrences and the loss of significant training time.
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