Image of children jumping on mini trampolines

Hop, Skip and Jump to Better Movement

The College of Education & Human Development created the Dean’s Doctoral Research Fellowship to recognize newly-admitted doctoral students for their outstanding scholarly accomplishments and academic potential. As fellows, they receive funding that supports their research projects and helps them become scholars who make significant contributions to their field of study. 

The Fall 2016 issue of Research & Innovation highlights a selection of their research. 

by Claire Miller 

Children can often switch from running to walking to jumping as quickly as you can shout, “Ready, set, go!”

Doctoral fellow Matthew Beerse and Jerry Wu, director of the College of Education & Human Development’s Center for Pediatric Locomotion Sciences, asked children with and without Down syndrome to hop in place and walk on a treadmill as part of a study aimed at analyzing children’s control over a biomechanical concept called leg stiffness.

Image of Matthew Beerse inside a cog“For running and hopping, usually the stiffer the leg the faster the movement, but there is a greater risk for injuries to bones. The less stiff the leg, the slower the movement and the greater the risk for injuries to muscles, ligaments and tendons,” Beerse explained. “So the control of leg stiffness is important for children because they are constantly changing the speed of their movement as they run, jump and play.”

Beerse and Wu found that children without Down syndrome demonstrated an adult-like hopping strategy and pattern while those with Down syndrome had difficulty coordinating multiple hops in a row and weren’t as able to change their hopping speed and leg stiffness accurately.

With this information, Beerse and Wu hope to create an intervention for children with Down syndrome using a mini trampoline to help them successfully hop in place multiple times.

“Children with Down syndrome have already demonstrated the ability to improve their motor skills with visual instruction and successful practice,” he said. “We propose that the skills and control practiced on the trampoline will carry over to hopping, jumping and running in their everyday lives.”