Blog - Tristan Chai - Athlete Screening


Preseason screening to guide athlete care and performance.

Written by: Tristan Chai, Head of Medical Adelaide 36ers

It’s always an exciting time when players arrive for the season ahead.

They descend on Adelaide from interstate and overseas.

Some return after taking a much-needed break, but more often than not they’re returning after playing in various off-season leagues and we have just two months to get them ready for the rigours of an NBL season.

The players who’ve returned from other basketball duties are by-and-large ready to start training from a fitness perspective but may be carrying underlying injuries.

One of the key roles of the Medical and Performance department at the Adelaide 36ers is to screen players on their arrival.

 The concept of screening is simple. Contrary to the ‘injury prediction’ unicorn that will tempt us to use (probably) too many tests and put an unrealistic expectation on what the results mean, pre-season screening is a series of tests that will indicate any deficits and direct us towards any further testing that needs to be done.

 The concept of a screen is not to be diagnostic, but to be sensitive enough to flag anything that needs a more detailed look.


This is a process that gets refined each year.

During my time at the 36ers, we’ve mostly simplified the process each year. We’re constantly streamlining it for efficiencies and updating tests and protocols based on the most recent evidence and discussions with other physios and performance staff across the globe. Having said that, there is a fairly traditional mix of screening tests that are carried out across the basketball population.

Our screen can be separated into four categories:


Medical: The medical screening is carried out by our Sports Doctor and nurse. It will generally entail basic blood tests, ECG and concussion baseline testing. It also takes into account the players medical and injury history which may indicate the need for specific further investigations (MRI etc) to ensure that we have the best understanding of a player’s physical and medical state. Our key goal here is to ensure the player is safe to train and play.


Physio: Physio screening carried out by me and our physio team. We look at anthropometrics (wing span, height, leg length, standing reach); mobility (predominantly ankle and hip range of movement), and control/dynamic stability (Y-balance test and various hop tests). Our key goal here is to ensure there are no biomechanical or control deficits that suggest we should hold them back from more intense training with respect to injury risk.

Strength: Strength testing is carried out by both physio and S&C coaches. Screening will involve isometric strength testing (using the VALD ForceDecks, Nord Bord, ForceFrame we are able to assess CMJ, Hop, IMTP, eccentric hamstring strength and hip ABD:ADD ratios) and key lifts (push, pull and posterior chain). Our main goal is to search for any key area where S&C coaches should focus to help improve each player’s physical function on the court.

Performance: Again, this is carried out by physio and S&C staff. We typically evaluate a 20-metre sprint, NBA Lane Agility (using the Vald Smartaspeed timing gates) and a YoYo test variation. Our aim is to test their engine and how well they move on the court.


Our screening process generally takes two-days, at the end of which we will have data points that we can use to rank players against each other, themselves and normative data from the NBA. Barring any flags, players will then be cleared to commence basketball training.


After we’ve completed testing, we take a deeper dive into the data and add any relevant external test results into the Arc AMS by Lumin Sports. We also Arc to track athlete wellness through the season. Arc allows us to identify any trends across the group that will aid with keeping strength and conditioning programs specific, and finding individual ‘weak points’ that can be addressed either clinically or incorporated into their individual session prep.


Establishing and storing screening data allows us to create an Individual Athlete Profile, which we can cross-check regularly throughout the season to track any changes (for better or worse) and adjust their programs on the fly. We also lean heavily on these metrics to assess their rehab progressions, and essentially their readiness for return to play, should they suffer from injuries.

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