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As those of us in the therapy world look to get more objective and evidence-based, incorporating new tools can certainly make our jobs easier. One of the things I have been using more and more lately is the Y balance test. This device allows the clinician to test lower extremity range of motion, balance, strength, and neuromuscular control all at once in a weight bearing, functional position.
It was derived from the original Star Excursion Balance test developed by Gray Gray, PT. The original test involved having the athlete stand on one foot and reach out as far as possible with the other in 8 different planes. Researches have found that is more reliable and efficient to use 3 planes – anterior, posterior medial, and posterior lateral. The Y Balance Test was developed to give the clinician an easy way to test those 3 planes and a more reliable way to measure the reach distance. These distances are compared side to side, with the goal of having symmetry. There is another option to compare the distances relative to the length of the leg, and reference against standardized norms.
A systematic review published in the Journal of Athletic Training in 2012 determined that the “Star Excursion Balance Test is a reliable measure and valid dynamic test to predict risk of lower extremity injury, to identify dynamic balance deficits in patients with lower extremity conditions, and to be responsive to training programs in healthy participants and those with lower extremity injuries”. A study in the October 2013 issue of JOSPT found a relationship between those baseball players with low Y Balance Test scores and ulnar collateral ligament injuries.
Chris Gabriel, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), practices physical therapy with the OrthoCarolina Wellness Center. Chris and his team treat a range of patients for orthopedic and sports medicine needs. He enjoys working with various local high school, college, and professional sports teams.