When working with young athletes, what are some tests that will help to determine their dominant leg?
I appreciate your concern; especially seeing as most junior athletic programs don’t go too far into functional assessments! One of the best assessments to determine dominant leg strength is the unilateral stance and squat test. See below for specifics…
Designed to assess ankle proprioception, unilateral leg strength, core strength and hip joint stability. This assessment also assesses the client’s ability to transfer load to one leg and will compare the asymmetry of squat depth if unilateral weakness is present.
- Client should place hands on the waist and focus on an object straight ahead.
- Be sure the feet are pointed straight ahead and the foot/ankle and lumbo-pelvic-hip complex are in a neutral position
- STANCE ANTERIOR VIEW: Starting with the right side, instruct client to raise left leg while positioning next to the right leg and hold for no longer than 10 seconds. Record all gross findings. Repeat on left side.
- SINGLE LEG SQUAT ANTERIOR VIEW: Instruct client to accept weight on right side once again and progress to the single leg squat movement, repeating the squat three times and holding end range on the third repetition. Record all gross findings. Note: It is best to demonstrate the movement and show clients how to catch themselves with their opposite leg if they lose their balance.
- Repeat the three repetition sequence on the left leg.
- SINGLE LEG SQUAT POSTERIOR VIEW: Repeat three repetition sequence, starting with the right. Record all gross findings. Repeat on left. Note: It is best to have clients remove their shirts or lift shirts to observe the lumbar spine. Pay careful attention to how the spine reacts when the bi-lateral squat stance progresses to the single leg.
- Variations (if deemed necessary)
- Elevated Heels
- Cervical Rotation
- Eyes Closed
In addition to this assessment, we recommend many others (gait, single leg vertical jump, goniometric, etc,). By combining many assessments, you will be able to determine the best starting point for your athletes. Never use just one assessment to create an opinion! After you have determined the dominate leg, start to think why. Example…Is the leg strength decreased due to tightness in the hip flexor complex, therefore inhibiting the extensors ability to decelerate the leg? Remember force reduction (deceleration) PRE-cedes force production (acceleration). Of course, there could be many reasons why. Our point is to encourage you to constantly assess and re-assess to find your answers. Good luck!