Gait parameters associated with balance in healthy 2- to 4-year-old children

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The use of validated measurements of gait and balance are crucial to establish baseline function and assess effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. Gait in children changes with motor development requiring frequent observations to effectively track progress. Standardized baseline spatiotemporal measurements and a greater understanding of the relationship between gait and balance would provide important feedback to clinicians regarding the effectiveness of rehabilitation and guide treatment modifications. 84 subjects (2.0–4.9 years) walked along the GAITRite®, a walkway that records spatiotemporal parameters. The Pediatric Balance Scale (PBS) was administered to assess balance. Comparison of spatiotemporal parameter means between age groups showed trends associated with motor development similar to the ones described in the literature such as decreased cadence and increased step/stride length with increasing age. However, no significant differences in normalized spatiotemporal parameters were found between age groups. Age, leg length, cadence, step/stride length, step/stance time, and single/double support time showed significant correlation with balance scores. When the parameters were grouped into spatial, temporal, and age-related components using principal components analysis and included in a multiple regression model, they significantly predicted 51% of the balance score variance. Age-related components most strongly predicted balance outcomes. We suggest that balance can potentially be evaluated by assessment of spatial, temporal, and age-related characteristics of gait such as step length, cadence, and leg length. This suggests the possibility of developing new gait measurement technology that could provide functional assessment and track improvements during rehabilitation regimens. If the same model can be applied to monitor treatment efficacy in children with gait abnormalities remains to be addressed.