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The story of Robert Griffin, III may be one of the best illustrations of why addressing quality of movement is so important.   

RGIII was the 2nd overall draft pick in the 2012 NFL draft after an impressive career at Baylor.  He posted outstanding numbers at the NFL scouting combine, including a 39 inch vertical jump and a 4.41 second 40 yard dash.  

I’ve often heard the term “Ferrari” used to describe athletes like this, in reference to a Ferrari car.  Just in case you’re unfamiliar, a Ferrari is a very high-end sports car brand known for its big engines, speed, and acceleration.  

The Ferrari Mistake

So, when a “Ferrari” athlete comes to your training facility with those numbers, why try to “fix” anything, right?  If it’s performing, don’t change it, or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Let’s just watch and admire the Ferrari for its speed, tight cornering, etc etc.  Unfortunately, that was and is the wrong approach.

When you break down and look at HOW he moves instead of just how much, you see a ticking time bomb of an injury waiting to happen.

While RGIII (clearly) had tremendous raw athletic ability, his movement patterns and quality of movement tell a very different story.  When you break down and look at HOW he moves instead of just how much, you see a ticking time bomb of an injury waiting to happen. To go back to the vehicle analogy, he may have had a Ferrari engine, but the frame and suspension of a Prius.  With these issues left unaddressed, something was bound to break down.

*Disclaimer: I’m not hating on the prius (and it’s a sporty looking vehicle in it’s own right), but it’s just not built to handle the amount of torque and horsepower of a Ferrari engine.

Something’s Not Right Here

The below photos are RGIII performing a broad jump at the NFL combine.  The first photos capture the take-off mechanics of his broad jump, which is one of the tests performed at the NFL combine.  The next image captures his landing mechanics. It doesn’t take a trained eye to notice that something about this just does not look “right.”  

An Accident Waiting to Happen 

What we see here is a rotation inward (internal rotation and adduction) of his thigh, causing his knees to nearly touch when preparing to jump.  He also ends up in this same pattern when landing. Without going into what is happening in his core with his posture and trunk position, this alone is enough to display a poor quality movement pattern that can set him up with a mechanism for injury.  This particular movement pattern almost exactly mimics the mechanism for an ACL tear.

The Result

Unfortunately, and unnecessarily, this injury waiting to happen reared its head in his first season as an NFL quarterback.  He suffered a non-contact ACL injury during the playoffs of his first season while trying to recover a bad snap.

Perhaps the saddest part of it all is that this was his second ACL tear on the same knee.  So, not only were these compromising movement patterns not corrected in his preparation for the NFL, but they also were (at least apparently so) not dealt with during the recovery from his original ACL tear, which occurred in 2009.   

This should not happen to anyone, especially not someone with this level of talent and potential.  These movement issues should be addressed on DAY 1! This is why learning and applying proper and efficient movement is so important for athletes, especially those competing at a high level.  

A Simple Fix: Build the Foundation First

If movement quality is evaluated thoroughly, the Prius frame, suspension, and braking system can and should be identified and addressed, prior to focusing on and finely tuning the engine.  It all starts with proper movement screening and the understanding of where to start when problems are identified. 

The process for correcting these movement pattern issues is not complicated and can be accomplished through a combination of proper cueing and repetition of specific movements including variations of squats, lunges, and progressive jumping and landing drills.  Peeling back the onion one more layer, the basis for proper squats, lunges, etc must be established through screening for and performing core stabilization and specific hip rotation exercises.  Performing these basic movements properly lays a foundation for advancing to more intense and game-like situations.  

A good coach or trainer should be constantly observing, guiding, and cueing an athlete to utilize the foundational movement patterns in progressively less regulated scenarios.  However, if those foundational movements (squats, lunges, landings etc.) are dysfunctional, the athlete, and the coach, are fighting a battle they can never win.

Not all injuries are preventable through movement coaching, training, and physical therapy, but this is one example where proper intervention would very likely have substantially reduced the risk.  The bottom line is, you can’t see quality of movement in combine or testing numbers, but it is hugely important for an athlete’s health, durability, and the longevity of their career in sports. It’s so important that these quality of movement issues are addressed in the testing and training process.  

Build a great frame and suspension first and then drop in the Ferrari engine!  

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