Neurological soft signs are associated with reduced medial-lateral postural control in adolescent athletes

Bonke, Elena M, Clauwaert, Amanda, Hillmann, Stefan M, Tacke, Uta, Seer, Caroline, Yhang, Eukyung, Tripodis, Yorghos, Sandmo, Stian B, Wiegand, Tim L T, Kaufmann, David, Kaufmann, Elisabeth, Richmond, Sutton B, Gaubert, Malo, Seitz-Holland, Johanna, Leemans, Alexander, Swinnen, Stephan P, Bahr, Roald, Pasternak, Ofer, Heinen, Florian, Koerte, Inga K, Bonfert, Michaela V, Gooijers, Jolien


Journal of the Neurological Sciences 445


INTRODUCTION: Neurological soft signs (NSS) are minor deviations from the norm in motor performance that are commonly assessed using neurological examinations. NSS may be of clinical relevance for evaluating the developmental status of adolescents. Here we investigate whether quantitative force plate measures may add relevant information to observer-based neurological examinations.

METHODS: Male adolescent athletes (n = 141) aged 13-16 years from three European sites underwent a neurological examination including 28 tests grouped into six functional clusters. The performance of tests and functional clusters was rated as optimal/non-optimal resulting in NSS+/NSS- groups and a continuous total NSS score. Participants performed a postural control task on a Balance Tracking System measured as path length, root mean square and sway area. ANCOVAs were applied to test for group differences in postural control between the NSS+ and NSS- group, and between optimal/non-optimal performance on a cluster- and test-level. Moreover, we tested for correlations between the total NSS score and postural control variables.

RESULTS: There was no significant overall difference between the NSS+ and NSS- group in postural control. However, non-optimal performing participants in the diadochokinesis test swayed significantly more in the medial-lateral direction than optimal performing participants. Moreover, a lower total NSS score was associated with reduced postural control in the medial-lateral direction.

CONCLUSION: Our findings demonstrate that NSS are related to postural control in adolescent athletes. Thus, force plate measures may add a quantitative, objective measurement of postural control to observer-based qualitative assessments, and thus, may complement clinical testing.