Dr. Jason Garrett, Chief Medical Officer for Airrosti, Clinical Director for the CrossFit Games, and MD-L1 Certificate holder, sits down with Mike Giardina at the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games to discuss movement compensation and assessment. As a healthcare professional, Dr. Garrett is passionate about CrossFit because it has dramatically improved his personal health. Prior to CrossFit, Dr. Garrett experienced back pain due to movement dysfunction and weakness. Since starting CrossFit, he no longer has pain, he feels healthier, has increased range of motion, and feels like he is aging backward.
The tenets of CrossFit make up the basis of health, Dr. Garrett explains. In order to be healthy, we need to move well, eat well, and provide ourselves with some good stress. This is necessary for cellular regeneration, Dr. Garrett says, and it is why a lot of the chronic diseases are preventable. But if healthcare professionals and CrossFit affiliate owners and coaches are to work together to have a real impact on public health, he continues, firsthand experience is critical. Healthcare professionals must experience the life-changing benefits of CrossFit themselves.
When it comes to movement compensation, Dr. Garrett provides some general strategies to assess an athlete or a group of athletes in the gym. First, a PVC pipe is a very effective tool, he explains. Weight can sometimes mask an athlete’s inefficiencies. We all have experienced the challenge of moving with just a PVC pipe. There is nowhere to hide, and your movement faults are exposed. Simple PVC-pipe pass-throughs can provide a wealth of information about an athlete’s shoulder range of motion, and an overhead squat with a PVC pipe can highlight weaknesses in stability and mobility. Use the PVC pipe to determine inefficiencies, coach to improve these inefficiencies, then slowly move athletes to load — starting with an empty barbell. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Garrett suggests focusing mainly on the hips and shoulder when trying to improve mobility, as these areas can be improved a lot with coaching. Areas such as the ankles and thoracic spine can take much longer. That isn’t to say don’t focus on those at all, but tackle the hips and shoulders first.
When coaching groups, it can be helpful to line your athletes up or put them in circles. Having them move together can help expose poor movement, explains Dr. Garrett. Cue quickly and try to get them moving a little better. Small improvements will accumulate over time.
When it comes to movement faults, Dr. Garrett explains how pain is only an issue when it progresses or intensifies after warming up. He recommends that CrossFit coaches understand their scope of practice when it comes to pain and refer out when it is paired with an acute injury with swelling and when it is chronic and not improving.
CrossFit coaches excel at identifying poor movement, Dr. Garrett says. They just need to trust themselves, their instincts, and the movement patterns they see.