Some teenage boys are clumsy because their brains can't keep up with the speed they are growing

'Following a growth spurt, the body needs time to adjust,' researcher says

Ian Johnston
Science Correspondent
Friday 20 May 2016 11:22
'Risk-taking is like second nature to youth of a certain age'
'Risk-taking is like second nature to youth of a certain age'

Teenage boys who experience a growth spurt may become clumsy because their brain cannot keep up with the sudden change in their dimensions, according to a new study.

Researchers in Italy studied the way teenagers moved and found those who had gained 3cm in height in three months tended to be more awkward.

However the scientists added that a number of other factors could be involved in the youth’s motor skills such as what they referred to as “socio-emotional” changes.

Lead author of a paper on the study, Dr Maria Cristina Bisi, from Bologna University, said: “A sudden increase in height affects the body’s ability to control established motor skills, such as walking.

“Adolescents tend to show previous control of the body when growing up, but the motor control behaviour is organized on the body’s dimensions.

“Following a growth spurt, the body needs time to adjust to changes to the periphery, during which time a teenager may walk awkwardly, while teenagers who grow steadily are able to handle growth modifications better and so maintain smoothness and regularity when walking.”

The researchers studied 88 boys, all aged 15 and from the same school, they wrote in the open access journal Biomedical Engineering OnLine.

The teenagers' height and weight were recorded and they were measured again three months later. During that time, 19 of the boys had grown by 3cm (more than an inch) or more.

They were all fitted with sensors on their lower back and legs to monitor their gait, then asked to walk up and down a 10-metre long corridor.

They then had to do the same thing while doing mental arithmetic – counting backwards from a random number in units of eight -- to “test the relative cognitive demand of gait control”.

Those teenagers who had not experienced a growth spurt “walked more smoothly and their stride was more regular … particularly when performing the cognitive task”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in