Overweight Children Have Less Elbow Range of Motion

Monday, February 11th, 2008
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Children who are overweight have less range of motion in their elbows than their normal-weight peers, which could make it tougher for them to exercise in order to lose weight, the findings of a research study suggest. The study correlated the elbow range of motion and body mass indices (BMIs) of 113 healthy children between the ages of 2 and 18. Seventy-two of the participants had weights in the normal range, with BMIs in the 15th to 85th percentile. Fifteen participants were at risk of being overweight, with BMIs from the 85th to 95th percentile, and 20 were overweight, with BMIs at or above the 95th percentile. Six were underweight, with BMIs below the 15th percentile. Researchers measured elbow range of motion using a standard orthopedic instrument called an extendable goniometer.

Overweight children may have difficulty participating in the same athletic endeavors as their normal-weight counterparts due to decreased joint motion. This could make it more difficult to lose weight and might further discourage overweight children from participation in sports.

When BMI is one standard deviation above normal, a child loses approximately two to three degrees of elbow movement. But the elbow of a child who is in the 99th percentile will flex between 12 to 15 degrees less than normal-weight peers. This loss of elbow movement may have significant effects on the overweight child’s ability to participate in athletics.

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