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Fitness Tests following Calf Strain Injury

Griffo, in Sydney, Australia asks:

"I have a star point guard who has been out for 5 weeks with a calf strain and he believes he is ready to return. I have been told I need to put him through a skills test to see if he can return to play. Can you suggest a suitable test?"

Marc R. Bernier, Senior Physical Therapist responds:

"Functional testing is an integral component of the rehabilitation program that will help determine when an athlete is prepared for a return to the basketball court. The testing protocol used can vary significantly from one clinician to another and will vary depending on the sport. However, it is important to ensure that the key physical attributes that are inherent to the particular sport are tested in a sport-specific manner. Therefore, the use of one test will not be sufficient in these regards.

"Before a functional testing program can be implemented, we must first examine the sport-specific movements that will be necessary in order to compete in basketball:

  1. Explosive power
    This is required to achieve maximum jump height or when changing direction.

  2. Acceleration/deceleration
    :This is required during sprints and slowing down to stop or change direction; the ability to control body weight when landing from jumps.

  3. Agility/footwork
    Being able to move the feet quickly while carrying out basketball skills .

  4. Muscular endurance
    The ability to maintain repeated high intensity workloads while resisting fatigue .

"Each test recommended below will determine an athlete's capabilities in at least one of the abovementioned components of basketball-specific fitness. It is important to note that the tests include both qualitative and quantitative assessments of the player's ability:

  1. Shuttle Run
    The athlete runs successive sprints starting at baseline, increasing the distance on the court each time (i.e. to foul line and back; to midcourt and back; to opposite foul line and back; to opposite baseline and back). This test is commonly used as a fitness assessment, but the purpose here is to qualitatively evaluate the player's ability to accelerate, decelerate and change direction. The clinician will look for signs of limping or compensations in running pattern or an inability to push off with sufficient power when changing direction

    This test can also be used as a cardiovascular or muscular endurance test by having the athlete perform multiple repetitions of the shuttle run.

  2. Yo-Yo Runs
    The athlete runs repetitively forwards and backwards over a predetermined distance (I prefer 10 meters) with an emphasis on a rapid, explosive change in direction. This also is a qualitative assessment of the player's ability to change direction by generating power through the legs, particularly the calf musculature.

  3. Single Leg Vertical Hops
    The athlete repetitively hops off one leg for 30 seconds, with a qualitative assessment being performed in regards to overall height, fatigue and jumping/landing ability between each leg.

  4. Single Leg Jump for Distance
    The athlete jumps as far forward as possible, jumping and landing on the same leg (the athlete must 'stick' the landing and not lose his/her balance). This is done on each leg, and a percentage comparing the injured to the uninjured side is calculated. A passing score is 85% of the uninjured leg.

  5. Timed Single Leg Hop for Distance
    The athlete hops off one leg as fast as they can over a 10 meter distance. The time taken to cover the 10 meters is documented, and a percentage comparing the injured leg to the uninjured leg is calculated. Again, a passing score is 85% of the uninjured leg.

"The above tests will give you a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the player's physical ability, and a more accurate determination of his/her readiness for clearance to unrestricted participation in functional basketball activity."

Article published: 10th October 2005

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