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Beyond the Hype: The Hard Truth About FMS and SFMA

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) have gained significant traction in the fields of sports medicine, physical therapy, and athletic training. While many practitioners swear by these systems for injury prevention and performance enhancement, there are several critical points that challenge their validity and practicality:

1. Lack of Scientific Backing: One of the most prominent critiques of FMS and SFMA is the lack of rigorous scientific evidence supporting their claims. Many of the studies conducted on FMS and SFMA lack control groups, have small sample sizes, or are based on subjective interpretations.

2. Over-simplification: Both FMS and SFMA are based on the idea that there are universal “optimal” movement patterns. However, every individual's biomechanics are different due to factors like genetics, training history, and past injuries. What might be optimal for one person could be detrimental for another.

3. Subjectivity: Although these systems claim to be objective, there is a lot of room for practitioner interpretation. Two professionals can score the same individual differently on the same screen.

4. Limited Predictive Value: Studies have shown that FMS scores may not accurately predict injury risk. A low score doesn’t necessarily correlate with future injuries, and a high score doesn't guarantee injury prevention.

5. Financial Interests: There's a significant financial ecosystem built around FMS and SFMA certifications, tools, and courses. This commercial interest might lead to biases and exaggerated claims about the efficacy of these screens.

6. Misplaced Focus: Instead of focusing on how an individual moves during their specific sport or activity, FMS and SFMA assess generic movements. This can lead to unnecessary interventions for "problems" that might not actually impede an athlete's performance or well-being.

7. False Sense of Security: Just because an athlete scores well on the FMS or SFMA doesn't mean they're immune to injuries. It's a dangerous misconception for both the athlete and the practitioner.

In conclusion, while the FMS and SFMA can offer some insights into movement patterns and potential problem areas, it's crucial for practitioners to critically evaluate their validity and practicality. Relying solely on these screens without considering the broader context or other evidence-based assessment tools can lead to misguided interventions and missed opportunities for genuine injury prevention and performance enhancement.


1. Cook, G., Burton, L., & Hoogenboom, B. (2006). Pre-participation screening: the use of fundamental movements as an assessment of function - part 1. North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT, 1(2), 62–72.

- This primary source on FMS outlines its intentions and methodology. A close reading can reveal the inherent limitations of the approach.

2. Bardenett, S. M., Micca, J. J., DeNoyelles, J. T., Miller, S. D., Jenk, D. T., & Brooks, G. S.(2015). Functional movement screen normative values and validity in high school athletes: can the FMS be used as a predictor of injury? International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(3), 303–308.

- This study highlights that FMS scores may not necessarily predict injury risk among high school athletes.

3. Dorrel, B., Long, T., Shaffer, S., & Myer, G. D. (2015). Evaluation of the functional movement screen as an injury prediction tool among active adult populations: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports health, 7(6), 532-537.

- A systematic review and meta-analysis that questions the predictive validity of FMS in active adult populations.

4. Chorba, R. S., Chorba, D. J., Bouillon, L. E., Overmyer, C. A., & Landis, J. A. (2010). Use of a functional movement screening tool to determine injury risk in female collegiate athletes. North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT, 5(2), 47–54.

- Though this study finds some correlation between low FMS scores and injury, it's important to note the subjectivity in scoring and the potential for other uncontrolled factors.

5. Peate, W. F., Bates, G., Lunda, K., Francis, S., & Bellamy, K. (2007). Core strength: A new model for injury prediction and prevention. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, 2(1), 3.

- This study provides an alternative perspective on injury prediction and prevention, emphasizing the importance of core strength, which might be overlooked or underemphasized in FMS/SFMA assessments.

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