[Background] : Little or no research has been done in the overweight child on the relative contribution of multisensory information to maintain postural stability. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate postural balance control under normal and experimentally altered sensory conditions in normal?weight versus overweight children.
[Methods]: Sixty children were stratified into a younger (7?9 yr) and an older age group (10?12 yr). Participants were also classified as normal-weight (n= 22) or overweight (n= 38), according to the international BMI cut-off points for children. Postural stability was assessed during quiet bilateral stance in four sensory conditions (eyes open or closed, normal or reduced plantar sensation), using a Kistler force plate to quantify COP dynamics. Coefficients of variation were calculated as well to describe intra-individual variability.
[Findings]: Removal of vision resulted in systematically higher amounts of postural sway, but no significant BMI group differences were demonstrated across sensory conditions. However, under normal conditions lower plantar cutaneous sensation was associated with higher COP velocities and maximal excursion of the COP in the medial-lateral direction for the overweight group. Regardless of condition, higher variability was shown in the overweight children within the 7?9 yr old subgroup for postural sway velocity, and more specifically medial?lateral velocity.
[Interpretation]: In spite of these subtle differences, results did not establish any clear underlying sensory organization impairments that may affect standing balance performance in overweight children compared to normal-weight peers. Consequently, it is believed that other factors account for overweight children's functional balance deficiencies.