New Research: Biomechanics in Children

Running is a fundamental, locomotor skill developed from approximately 18 months of age (1), with maturity of this skill usually achieved by 4-6 years of age (2).The ability to run proficiently is essential to achieve to successful participation in physical activity (3). Children with poor running performance have been found to be less physically active, and have a higher standardised Body Mass Index (BMI) compared to those who are considered to be proficient (4), highlighting the importance of running skill development.

Older literature on the trainable factors affecting running performance in adults have concentrated on the physiological aspect of running training (5-7) More recently, biomechanical factors affecting energy demand in running have been studied and are believed to play an equally important role (8, 9). Further, poor running mechanics have also been proposed as being a contributor to abnormal or excessive soft tissue loading and overuse injury, consequently affecting performance (10, 11). To achieve a level of elite performance, many athletes undertake intensive training beginning at a young age, with the possibility of increased risk of overtraining and injury (10, 12, 13). Given that children’s running performance prior to puberty appears unrelated to physiological factors, it seems logical that running training programs for children should focus on optimising running biomechanics (14, 15).

trackstars high knees drill

The biomechanics of running gait in adult populations has been well documented, with optimal biomechanics having implications towards improved running economy and performance (9, 16, 17)One component of biomechanical analysis is an evaluation of running   kinematics and spatiotemporal parameters, providing valuable quantitative descriptions of joint movement throughout the gait cycle ((18).Three dimensional instrumented gait analysis is internationally recognized as providing a ‘gold standard’ analysis of movement   analysis (19). Suboptimal biomechanics are considered a modifiable risk factor in normal adult cohorts, with targeted gait retraining viewed as a potential avenue in the prevention of injury and perhaps performance enhancement (10).

There is a lack of adequate description of the biomechanics of running in typically developing healthy children. Some studies have examined the differences between the kinematics employed in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and healthy controls as well as walking gait in children compared to adults (8, 20, 21). Although comparative differences have been reported, there is a lack of specific description of whether a normative running style exists in healthy active children, and how this may relate to performance. Currently, inferences and assumptions based on kinematics in adults are made to establish children’s training regimes, risking injury and poor performance through suboptimal training methods (22)

This year through completing my post-graduate masters at Curtin University I will complete my research project that looks to analyse and explore this relationship. Through the use of a performance measure (1 kilometre time trial) and the motion analysis lab I will be analysing the running gait of prepubescent runners in Perth and comparing their performance with their biomechanics. We are eagerly anticipating the results and are looking forward to applying them directly to the youngest members of our Front Runner community, our Trackstars!

Trackstars 2

Jarrad Turner


Front Runner Sports



1.        Forrester LW. Intralimb coordination dynamics of the lower extremity and the development of running in infancy [Ph.D.]. Ann Arbor: University of Maryland College Park; 1997.

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