Hop tests are great functional assessments to see whether or not certain activities or exercises are appropriate for an athlete’s skill level.
When it comes to testing patients and athletes to determine if they are ready to return to a sport or activity after an injury, it can be extremely helpful to see how they perform on functional tests. A person might have normal range-of-motion and what seems to be normal strength, but they still might have problems that can put them at risk when working or competing. Functional tests are specific activities that simulate sport or workplace skills by challenging motor competence in patterns of motion which use multiple joints acting with various axes and numerous planes.
There are multiple different types of functional testing that can be done for the lower extremity, but one important series of tests involves hopping on one leg. This is an important thing because it can bring out functional deficits in athletes. Because a person alternates jumping from leg to leg during running imbalances and weaknesses in one of the legs can be masked. Hopping on one leg during a hop test is reliable for finding problems in these patients. They can be used to assess balance in patients as well as coordination, functional mobility, occupational performance and strength. In those that have had injuries to their lower extremities, passing a hop test can be a good indicator that the person has been properly rehabbed.
Single Leg Hop Tests
There are a couple different types of hop tests, but we will only focus on four of them because these will be most useful for runners: single hop, triple hop, crossover hop and the 6-meter hop for time. All of these hop tests are performed using the uninjured leg and then they are repeated with the leg that had been injured and the sides are compared. For a test to count for distance, the athlete must land on the last hop and maintain balance for at least 2 seconds without touching a hand or the other foot to the ground. You are also not allowed extra hops. For each of these tests, there should be less than a 10% difference in the distance covered or time to completion. More than a 10% difference means that there is still work to be done. On the single hop test, a person is supposed to hop forward as far as possible without losing their balance. On the triple hop test, a person is of supposed to hop forward three times as far as they can. The crossover hop test assesses medial/lateral stability in the lower extremity and is when a person hops forward as far as they can three times while crossing over a line with each hop. The 6-meter timed hop is where a person hops forward on one leg as quickly as possible for a distance of 6 m.
The reason that this becomes an issue is that athletes have the tendency to try to push themselves to get back to their sport too soon. If you do not have the strength and stability on an injured leg to hop approximately as far as the uninjured leg, you might be setting yourself up for further injury. The hop test can obviously be done formally in a clinic by a qualified healthcare provider. An athlete can also administer these tests to themselves to see if their hip, knee or ankle feels stable and strong.
Hop Test at Home
Doing the hop tests at home means that you need to learn how to get the measurement correct. You need to use something to mark where you started from and where you end up, so a few small pieces of tape could be helpful. You could also do the marking with a piece of chalk. You would place a piece of tape on the ground marking where you start from and start with your toe at the tape. You would then mark at the big toe where you end up after the right number of hops for the test you are doing. You can just go back to the start to do the injured leg. The other option is to turn around and start with your toe at the tape that you just ended and see if you can land where you had started with the uninjured leg. For the crossover hop test, you will need a line to hop over. It could be a chalk line or you could place a string or measuring tape as the line. Obviously, you would need to be careful about placing something on the ground that would cause you to slip if you landed on it.
Doing the different hop tests at home can give you a good idea of how the leg feels when you are doing it. Most people can feel the difference between injured and uninjured legs and can tell if there is a problem or not. You may get to the point where it feels fine from side to side but this is where it would be important to be sure that you pass with less than a 10% difference in distance hopped in the single hop, triple hop or crossover hop or the time to complete in the 6m timed hop.