The Drop Jump Test in Physical Therapy

A woman box jumping.
The Jump Drop Test can assess readiness to return to sport after injury. Hero Images/Getty Images

If you are an athlete who is injured or training to prevent injury, you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist.  Your PT can analyze your movement and can prescribe specific exercises to help you return to your previous level of activity and function.

Your physical therapist may perform many different tests and measures to help determine the best course of care for your specific needs.

 He or she may measure your strength and range of motion, and specific functional tests may be performed to help assess your condition.

The Drop Jump Test is a functional test used in physical therapy to assess your ability to jump and land properly.  It is a plyometric functional test that places stress through your ankles, knees, hips and spine.

Who Should Perform the Drop Jump Test

While just about anyone can perform the Drop Jump Test, usually it is reserved for specific patients.  These typically include athletes who engage in high level sports that require jumping, running, and rapid starting and stopping motions.

The Drop Jump Test may be performed in the later stages of rehab after an injury when your physical therapist is assessing your ability to return to high level athletics.  It may also be used as a screening tool for injury prevention programs.

Performing the Drop Jump Test

Before starting the Drop Jump Test, be sure to check in with your physical therapist or doctor to ensure that it is safe for you to do.

Follow these simple steps to perform the Drop Jump Test:

  1. Obtain a sturdy box that is 12 inches high.
  2. Stand on the box with your feet shoulder width apart.
  3. Jump up and off the box and land on the floor in front of you.
  4. Land softly by bending your knees, and then jump straight in the air.
  5. Land softly once again by bending your knees.

    What to Watch for During the Drop Jump Test

    When you perform the Drop Jump Test, your physical therapist will watch for specific dysfunctional or abnormal motions.  He or she may record your test and use a video analysis program to assess your motion.

    Specific body parts and joints will be assessed during the Drop Jump Test to see if your body is in the correct position while jumping and landing.  These include:

    • Knees: The position of your knees is important to watch during the Drop Jump test.  They should be separated about 35 centimeters when landing.  If your knees come close together or touch while jumping or landing, this may put increased stress through the ligaments in those joints, predisposing you to knee injury.  A lack of knee flexion and stiff knees upon landing may also indicate an increased risk of knee injury.
    • Ankles and feet:  When jumping and landing, make sure that your ankles and feet are pointed forward.  Landing with your feet pointed outwards may indicate tightness in your hips or weakness in your gluteal muscles.  It may also signal tightness in your calf muscles.  This can lead to increased risk of knee, hip, or ankle pain.  Your feet should be approximately 35 centimeters apart and located directly below your knees when landing.
    • Hips:  Your physical therapist will watch your hips upon jumping and landing for ensure that they are positioned above your knees and ankles.  Excessive hip rotation may cause changes down the kinetic chain which can lead to increased risk of injury.
    • Spine:  During the Drop Jump Test, your physical therapist will analyze the movement and position of your spine.  If your middle back is hypomobile due to lack of flexibility, your trunk will likely bend too far forward.  This can put increased stress through your knees or ankles.
    • Arms and shoulders:  While the Drop Jump Test is mainly focused on your legs and hips, the position of your arms and shoulders is important.  Excessive winging of your shoulder blades may indicate weakness in the postural muscles in your back.  Reaching your arms outward while jumping and landing may indicate balance issues that may affect your athletic performance.

    The Drop Jump As a Training Exercise

    The Drop Jump Test can be used as an effective training tool.  After performing the test, your physical therapist will analyze your motions and can make specific recommendations on things to work on while jumping and landing.   While you are exercising and training for your sport, you can incorporate the Drop Jump into your workouts.  This will help reinforce the proper way to jump and land and make it automatic during athletic competition.

    Before starting the Drop Jump Test or using the Drop Jump during your training, meet with your physical therapist to ensure that it is safe for you to do.

    The Drop Jump Test is an excellent way to assess your body's movements during a high level plyometric motion.  This is essential to ensure that you stay safe while participating in high intensity sports and recreational activities.  The Drop Jump can be used as a way to assess readiness to return to sport after an injury or surgery (such as an ACL repair), and it can be useful as a training tool in hopes of preventing injury.

    Source: Noyes, F. etal.  "The drop jump screening test: difference in lower limb control by gender and effect of neuromuscular training in female athletes."  Am J Sports Med. 33(2).  197-207.

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