The Effect of Limb-Length Discrepancy on Gait*

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We evaluated the gait of thirty-five neurologically normal children who had a limb-length discrepancy of the lower extremities that ranged from 0.8 to 15.8 per cent of the length of the long extremity (0.6 to 11.1 centimeters). The twenty-two boys and thirteen girls had an average age of thirteen years (range, eight to seventeen years). No patient had a substantial angular or rotational deformity of the lower extremities. We found no correlation between the actual discrepancy or the per cent discrepancy and any of the dependent kinematic or kinetic variables, including pelvic obliquity.Discrepancies of less than 3 per cent of the length of the long extremity were not associated with compensatory strategies. When a discrepancy was 5.5 per cent or more, more mechanical work was performed by the long extremity and there was a greater vertical displacement of the center of body mass. Clinically, this degree of discrepancy was manifested by the use of toe-walking as a compensatory strategy. Children who had less of a discrepancy were able to use a combination of compensatory strategies to normalize the mechanical work performed by the lower extremities.

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