The Y-Balance Test is a simplified version of the Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT) that is used to assess injury risk.
While the SEBT is a reliable measure of injury risk, stability and return-to-play progress, research has found that it has considerable redundancy.
The SEBT involves 8 different points on a star, but much of the test’s power to predict injury comes from the score of just one of those points – the posteromedial (to the back and middle) point.
The Y-Balance test uses just the three most useful points from the SEBT, the posteromedial, anterior, and posterolateral points – or in layman’s terms, straight to the front and back, and to either side. Unlike the SEBT, the Y-Balance Test is also used to assess upper-body function.
To perform the Y-Balance Test, stand on one foot in the middle of the three points. From here, reach as far out to each point as possible and tap your foot on the floor without resting. Repeat this step, one point at a time, while returning your foot to the center each time before reaching out as far as you can to tap the ground on the next point.
This measures your balance, mobility, and motor control, which in itself is important for sports performance and resilience. But, most importantly, it also measures side-to -side asymmetries. If an athlete can stay balanced while reaching with much greater range of motion on one side than the other, they are at a significantly increased risk of injury in their sport.
Tracking movement asymmetries in the lower body by using the Y-Balance Test is a reliable and valuable way to identify athletes with a high-risk of lower body injury, as well as to track progress during rehabilitation.
Different groups of athletes will have different statistical “cut points,” or thresholds below a composite score that predict their chances of injury. For example, if collegiate football players score below 89% of the composite score on the test, their risk of injury goes from 37.7% to 68.1%. For basketball players, the cutoff point is 94% of the composite score.
An athlete recovering from a lower body injury will generally have less reach while standing on their injured limb. By tracking the changes in this deficit and comparing them to a more symmetrical, non-injured baseline, trainers and physical therapists are able to use objective progress indicators during their athlete’s return-to-play process. They can track meaningful data that allows to them to know when an athlete is sufficiently recovered and functionally ready for the rigors of their sport.
A drawback to the Y-Balance Test is that the therapist or trainer must keep track of a lot of data. Each round of the test involves measuring and recording the reach-and-touch distance for three different points. In the standard protocol, the test is repeated three times per leg and then the scores are averaged and compared.
This becomes a lot of numbers that have to be recorded, processed, and tracked over time. For a busy trainer, this is a lot of data management, and an inefficient use of time. The more time trainers spend processing data, the less time they have for direct patient treatment.
The Cipher Skin Knee BioSleeve changes this by automating this entire process. Rather than having a trainer scramble around on the ground taking measurements, the BioSleeve auto-detects and records the reach distance for each touch. This data is automatically stored, tracked, and processed.
The trainer no longer has to record numbers to a spreadsheet or track countless pieces of paper or software files. Instead, they simply use the Cipher Skin Digital Mirror app to instantly view their athlete or patient's data as soon as they’ve completed their test. The data is captured with a high degree of accuracy and is stored so that progress and asymmetries can be easily tracked over time.
By automating the data capture and analysis process of the Y-Balance Test, Cipher Skin enables the trainer to utilize the test more efficiently, with more accurate data and less wasted time. Having data recorded and stored allows them to focus more on what matters – their athletes return-to-play progress, injury risk, and performance data.