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Methods: Thirteen children with DS (aged 7–10 years) and thirteen age- and sex-matched typically developing (TD) children participated in this study. Subjects completed two bouts of 60-second treadmill walking at two different speeds (slow and fast) and two load conditions (no load and ankle load equaling to 2% bodyweight at each side). Kinematic data was captured using a Vicon motion capture system. Mean and coefficient of variance of spatiotemporal gait variables were calculated and compared between children with and without DS.

Results and significance: Across all conditions, the DS group took shorter and wider steps than the TD group, but walked with a similar swing percentage, double support percentage, and foot rotation angle. Further, the DS group demonstrated greater variability of all spatiotemporal parameters, except for step width and foot rotation angle. Our results indicated that children with DS can modulate their spatiotemporal gait pattern accordingly like their TD peers when walking faster on a treadmill and/or with an external ankle load. Smaller step width variability in the DS group suggests that mediolateral stability may be prioritized during treadmill walking to safely navigate the treadmill and complete walking tasks. Similar temporal parameters but distinct spatial parameters in the DS group suggest that they may have developed similar rhythmic control but are confined by their spatial movement limitations.


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