Introduction: Individuals with Down syndrome (DS) show a delayed acquisition of gross motor skills. Among gross motor skills, hopping is a particular form of jumping that can be performed using one leg. Despite its large use during play and physical activity, this skill in adults with DS has not received much attention so far. Here, we aim at investigating hopping skill in adults with DS both from a quantitative and qualitative point of view.Methods: Center of mass and dominant leg kinematics during hopping over distance were recorded from 24 adult individuals with DS and from 21 typically developed adults (TD) using two inertial measurement units positioned on the posterior aspect of the lower back and on the lateral malleolus of the hopping leg. From linear acceleration and angular velocity signals, hopping frequency (HF), cycle, stance and flight duration (CD, SD, FD), vertical stiffness (KV) and peak to peak linear acceleration and angular velocities about the cranio-caudal, antero-posterior and medio-lateral axes were extracted. A qualitative process assessment of the hopping skill was carried out using the performance criteria of the test for gross motor development (TGMD-3). The extracted parameters were submitted to analysis of covariance, with stature as a covariate to ruleout possible confounding effects.Results: The qualitative assessment highlighted a poorer hopping performance in the DS group compared to the TD group. DS participants showed higher HF and KV, shorter CD, SD, FD and lower angular velocity about the cranio-caudal axis compared to the TD group. Significant correlations between the temporal parameters of the quantitative assessment and the results of the qualitative assessment were observed.Discussion: The poorer motor competence in hopping in individuals with DS compared to TD peers may be related to the shorter flight time and higher vertical stiffness observed in TD peers. The adopted instrumental approach, overcoming the limitations of subjective evaluations, represents a promising opportunity to quantify motor competence in hopping.
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