Fitness Appraisal in Children with Disabilities: Flexibility
Most physical therapists rely on goniometry when performing flexibility or range of motion testing. This requires a high level of skill and is difficult to perform by inexperienced testers. In clinical settings, physical therapists can use goniometry to measure joint flexibility. However, outside of a clinical setting, flexibility tests must be relatively easy to administer. Two of the test items on the Brockport Physical Fitness Test are the Backsaver Sit and Reach Test (lower body) and the Modified Apley Test (upper body) (Winnick & Short, 1998).Backsaver Sit and Reach Test
The objective of the Backsaver Sit and Reach Test is to reach across a sit and reach box while keeping one leg straight. The test is designed to measure the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. One leg is fully extended across a sit and reach box while the other leg is bent at the knee joint with the sole of the foot flat on the floor and 2-3 inches to the side of the straight knee. The arms are extended forward over the measuring scale with one hand placed on top of the other. The child reaches across the box with both hands along the scale four times and holds the position of the fourth reach for at least one second. Both legs are measured. One trial is given for each leg and the tester records the number of inches or cm. reached (Winnick and Short).
If a sit and reach box is not available, a ruler extended over a bench turned on its side may be used For children in wheelchairs who are unable to be transferred to the floor, place the sit and reach box in a chair in front of the wheelchair, remove the foot pedal on the side you are measuring, and have the child perform the same technique. The sit and reach box can be purchased by most fitness equipment dealers or can be constructed out of wood or some other sturdy material (Winnick and Short).Modified Apley Test
The Modified Apley Test can be used to measure upper body flexibility. The child attempts to reach back and touch with one hand the superior medial angle of the opposite scapula.17 One trial is administered for each arm. If the child can successfully touch the superior medial angle of the opposite scapula and hold that position for 1-2 seconds, a score of "3" is awarded for that arm. If the child cannot achieve a score of "3", the child then attempts to touch the top of the head. A successful attempt receives a score of "2". If the child is unable to touch the head, he/she is then asked to touch the mouth. A score of "1" is awarded for a successful attempt. A score of "0" is given is the child if unable to touch the mouth. A complete description of the test can be found in the Brockport Physical Fitness Test Manual (ref).
Although there are many other flexibility tests that can be used with children with disabilities, the nice thing about these tests is that they are simple to use in a physical education or recreation setting with very few modifications. Most physical education or recreation instructors will have difficulty trying to administer several different flexibility tests that require extensive time and training.