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TitleEarly onset of stabilizing strategies for gait and obstacles: older adults with Down syndrome
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsSmith, B. A., & Ulrich B. D.
JournalGait & Posture
Pagination448 - 455
Date Published2008/10//
ISBN Number0966-6362
KeywordsAdaptation, Physiological, Adult, Analysis of Variance, Down Syndrome, Female, Gait, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Walking

Our goal was to examine the gait patterns of older adults with Down syndrome (DS) for precocious stabilizing adaptations during comfortable over-ground walking and in more challenging conditions. Twelve participants with DS and 12 with typical development (TD) were matched for height, weight and age (range 35-62 years). We used a six-camera motion capture system to assess foot trajectories over obstacles. Participants first walked at their preferred speed over a 5.3 m instrumented gait mat (unperturbed condition). Subsequent walking trials included perturbations mid-walkway: (a) minimal obstacle to step over (12 cm high), (b) moderate obstacle to step onto with both feet and then off (standard step), and (c) maximum obstacle to step onto with only one foot and over with the other (standard step). Adults with DS walked slower with shorter, wider strides while spending more time in both stance and double support. These adaptations increased during the moderate and maximal perturbations. They stepped with the minimal perturbation obstacle further forward in their crossing step and produced a lower, flatter trajectory of the lead foot, with less dorsiflexion at crossing. This strategy decreased trailing toe clearance but did not alter leading heel clearance. The combined effects of ligamentous laxity, low tone, obesity, inactivity and physiological decrements associated with aging lead to these stability-enhancing adaptations at a younger chronological age in adults with DS. We believe intervention to increase overall stability will be beneficial in helping adults with DS maintain optimal functional mobility and health.


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