August 2020

Movement Control Differs with Age in Children

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Movement control, the ability to control one’s own movements, is required for the development of motor skills and motor skills (also known as “physical literacy”) are critical for normative development. Movement skills help children improve their strength, posture, balance, and sleep, and play in role in developing confidence. Age-appropriate movement control may play a factor in lower extremity injuries which are known to peak during adolescence, but how movement control changes over the course of childhood has not been fully documented.

So, a team of researchers led by Emma Zuk, MS, sought to evaluate the differences in movement control in a multi-site, cross-sectional study of 1,498 youth from 6 – 18 years old (male=651, female=847), divided into 3 age groups. Differences in movement control were evaluated using the Landing Error Scoring System (LESS) during 3 trials of a standardized jump-landing task.

They found significantly fewer movement errors in older age groups of children when compared with their younger counterparts as well as between the sexes. Regardless of sex, each age group was significantly different from each other: elementary school (6-10 years old) was 6.6, middle school (11-13 years old) was 5.7 and high school (14-18 years old) was 4.6. Females demonstrated greater movement errors (5.8) than males (5.5), which may increase their risk of injury.

Lower scores on the LESS indicated better movement control and a reduced risk of ACL injury. Children who do not improve movement control during adolescence may be at future risk of injury. The incidence of lower extremity injuries, including ACL sprains, commonly peak during adolescence. Previous studies have focused on movement-based risk factors for injury that increased across development in an athletic population; however, such studies are often not generalizable to all youth populations. These results, which were presented at the recent 2020 NATA Virtual Clinical Symposia & AT Expo provide the largest comprehensive normative database of LESS values in youth and adolescents.

The study abstract, Movement Control Differs with Age in Children, will be published in the Journal of Athletic Training, the scientific journal of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, later this year.

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