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Gender differences in sagittal standing alignment before pubertal peak growth: the importance of subclassification and implications for spinopelvic loading

  • Dolphens, Mieke
  • Cagnie, Barbara
  • Vleeming, Adriaan
  • Vanderstraeten, Guy
  • Danneels, Lieven
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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The aim of this study was to analyze gender differences in sagittal standing alignment at pre-peak height velocity age thereby applying a scientifically sound and practically oriented classification scheme for overall standing balance. The study population consisted of healthy boys (n=639) and girls (n=557) before pubertal peak growth. During subjects' habitual standing, sagittal plane measures of the spine, pelvis and lower limbs were collected using a clinical screening protocol. With each subject classified as one of three postural types (neutral, sway-back, or leaning-forward), differences in sagittal plane alignment were analyzed between sexes. The results revealed clear differences between genders in each of the postural types. Within the neutral and sway-back postural subgroups, boys presented more forward inclination of the trunk, more thoracic kyphosis and more pelvis backtilt compared with girls. Within the leaning-forward category, girls displayed more forward trunk lean, less thoracic kyphosis and more pelvic anteversion. A state of lumbar segmental hyperextension appeared to exist in female leaning-forward subjects. Our results reveal for the first time that sagittal standing alignment is different between prepubescent boys and girls when subjects are appropriately subclassified, and conversely represent a wash-out effect' when pooled. When the classification system is applied, gender-specificity in gravity line position is suggested, implying gender-related differences in lever arms and thus load. Present findings may add to our understanding of gender-specific biomechanical challenges posed by habitual posture, and may shed new light on sagittal standing alignment as a possible contributory factor in developmental spinal-pelvic disorders.

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