Why does Sparta utilize the vertical jump, single leg balance, and single arm plank as assessments?


When discussing the rationale behind the different assessments available on the Sparta System there is no more important place to start than with reliability. Put simply, if the results of a test cannot be assigned consistently (reliable), it is impossible to conclude that the scores are accurate.  Unreliable data is simply bad data, and there is nothing any data scientist or machine learning algorithm can do to fix this. The assessments Sparta utilizes and the specific variables or measures utilized from these assessments are first and foremost found to be reliable. Multiple internal analyses and independent 3rd party research studies can be referenced and found in the Publications section of our website. It is also important to note that the assessments are reliable across different populations and settings. This scalability is possible because of different standardization settings within the software to ensure the reliable data is collected without the need for impractical and time-consuming assessment protocols.


Vertical Jump

The vertical jump test has been shown to be a reliable and valid assessment across multiple different populations. The Jump Scan specifically, assesses dynamic movement holistically by looking at three critical force-time variables - Load, Explode, and Drive.  While the forces measured during the Jump Scan come from the feet putting force into the ground, the body moves as an entire system utilizing all parts of the body from head to toe.  Movement is extremely complex, requiring interactions between our nervous system (brain) and our musculoskeletal system (muscles/bones) and it is best assessed in a dynamic fashion, like a jump. One of the main reasons the vertical jump is utilized as a test is that the assessment itself is extremely simple, this allows it to be utilized across multiple populations.  The test is also very reliable, meaning accurate, and practical, meaning easy and quick to perform. A vertical jump is also a valid or meaningful test for all humans, simply because we all live on earth we are all bound by the laws of gravity! 

 The Jump Scan is less an athlete or sport-specific jump test and more a simple, reliable, practical dynamic human movement assessment. This may seem obvious, but as humans, we actually have a lot more in common than is different. To use an example from medicine, athletes aren't assessed any differently in their blood panels or echocardiograms... all human bodies function in very similar ways. It is important to note that though we are utilizing a jump as an assessment, a higher jump height does not always mean a more efficient mover or a better result. From a movement perspective, we can see differences in skill or strength, but ALL humans need to create, transfer, and apply force in order to move efficiently and remain healthy. The Jump Scan allows for a holistic measure of dynamic human movement, in a simple and practical way.


Single-Leg Balance

Balance ability is related to performance and injury risk across numerous populations and can be reliably measured utilizing the Balance Scan. This scan specifically measures an individual's ability to stabilize holistically, by measuring the magnitude and direction of movement while balancing on a single limb.  Research has shown balance ability to be a valid indicator for higher risk of lower limb injury in athletes as well as fall-risk in general populations.  It can even serve as an early warning sign of Parkinson's disease and diabetes! Similar to a vertical jump, our ability to balance utilizes complex interactions between different systems of the body.  Functions from our nervous system (brain), musculoskeletal system (muscles/bones), and vestibular system (inner ear) can all be analyzed simply from the Balance Scan. These findings show that similar to the vertical jump, a single leg balance test can be utilized as a reliable and valid assessment of human movement capability.  

The Balance Scan also has the benefit of being a much lower intensity assessment.  Post-injury individuals who may not be cleared for dynamic assessment (Jump Scan) are often able to perform a balance test. In the rehabilitative setting, this allows for a much earlier objective assessment of the individual and can help to guide rehab protocols as well as track progress. Balance assessments are also often utilized in the clinical setting after a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) to assess progress and compare with pre-injury or database thresholds for healthy individuals. Balance tasks can be utilized by geriatric, sedentary, or immobile individuals who may be unable to or uncomfortable performing a Jump. Practitioners tend to gravitate toward the Jump Scan as it is more dynamic, however, the Balance and Plank scans can be just as powerful.


Single-Arm Plank

The Plank Scan or single-arm plank assessment is likely the most novel assessment from the suite of Sparta Scans. Our interaction with the ground (gravity) dictates how we move and forces transfer between our upper and lower body. The Jump Scan is a great measure of this holistic dynamic movement, but the Plank Scan is unique as it allows us to key in more on the trunk and upper body musculature and corresponding injuries. Post-injury individuals who may not be cleared to Jump are often able to perform a Plank Scan.  For individuals who are unable to perform a single-arm plank, there are modifications that can be utilized. In the rehabilitative setting, this allows for a much earlier objective assessment of the individual and can help to guide rehab protocols as well as track progress.

Core strength and stability have been theorized to improve performance and reduce injury risk for both the spine and the extremities but there is actually very little evidence supporting this in the literature. Clinical measures of core stability are typically subjective or commonly endurance-based tests that have shown little validity, so there was a need for a novel assessment. Similar to the Balance Scan, the Plank Scan collects stabilization strategy data on the magnitude and direction of movement during the single-arm plank task giving a much more holistic measure of core stability. Independent research has shown the Plank Scan is adequately challenging to assess core stability and can identify athletes who later sustain trunk injuries. Just as important, internal analyses and independent peer-reviewed research have found the assessment and the variables utilized to be reliable across multiple populations.