Neuromechanics weekly: proprioceptive clues in Children’s Gait.

We can learn a lot about gait from watching our children walk. An immature nervous system is very similar to one which is compensating meaning cheating around a more proper and desirable movement pattern; we often resort to a more primitive state when challenges beyond our ability are presented. This is very common when we lose some aspect of proprioception, particularly from some peripheral joint or muscle, which in turn, leads to a loss of cerebellar input (and thus cerebellar function). Remember, the cerebellum is a temporal pattern generating center so a loss of cerebellar sensory input leads to poor pattern generation output. Watch this clip several times and then try and note each of the following:

  • wide based gait; this is because proprioception is still developing (joint and muscle mechanoreceptors and of course, the spino cerebellar pathways and motor cortex)
  • increased progression angle of the feet: this again is to try and retain stability. External rotation allows them to access a greater portion of the glute max and the frontal plane (engaging an additional plane is always more stable).
  • shortened step length; this keeps the center of gravity close to the body and makes corrections for errors that much easier (remember our myelopathy case from last week ? LINK.  This immature DEVELOPING system is very much like a mature system that is REGRESSING.  This is a paramount learning point !)
  • decreased speed of movement; this allows more time to process proprioceptive clues, creating accuracy of motion

Remember that Crosby, Still, Nash and young song “Teach Your Children”? It is more like, “teach your parents”…

Proprioceptive clues are an important aspect of gait analysis, in both the young and old, especially since we tend to revert back to an earlier phase of development when we have an injury or dysfunction.

Ivo and Shawn. Still bald, still good looking, with intact cerebellums and neocortices : )