Clinical and Device-based Metrics of Gait and Balance in Diagnosing Youth Concussion

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020 Mar;52(3):542-548. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002163.


Purpose: Evaluate the discriminatory ability of two clinical measures and one device-based measure of gait and balance for concussed youth.

Methods: We enrolled 81 cases and 90 controls age 14-18 yr old from August 2017 to June 2018. Controls were recruited from a suburban high school, and cases were recruited from the concussion program of an academic pediatric tertiary care center. Tests included two clinical measures: 1) complex tandem gait, scored as sway/errors walking forward and backward eyes open and closed; 2) Modified Balance Error Scoring System (mBESS), scored as total number of errors on three standing tasks; and one device-based measure; 3) Modified Clinical Test of Sensory Interaction and Balance (mCTSIB) using the Biodex Biosway Balance System, scored as a sway index. Sensitivity, specificity, ideal cutpoint, and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) were calculated for all test components.

Results: Ideal cutpoint for total number of sway/errors for tandem gait = 5, sensitivity 41%, specificity 90%. Ideal cutpoint for total mBESS errors = 4, sensitivity 55%, specificity 75%. Ideal cutpoint for mCTSIB = 1.37, sensitivity 37%, specificity 88%. Among each test, some individual components outperformed overall composites, in particular tandem gait (specificity forward eyes open = 99%, sensitivity backward eyes closed = 81%). Among the 40 cases and 65 controls with all three assessments, AUC (95% CI) for tandem gait = 0.63 (0.52,0.75), mBESS = 0.70 (0.60,0.81), and mCTSIB = 0.54 (0.42,0.66).

Conclusions: A device-based measure of balance did not produce better discriminatory ability than two clinical assessments. Complex tandem gait has the additional benefit of being an easy-to-perform and graded test with highly sensitive and specific individual components.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis*
  • Gait Analysis*
  • Humans
  • Postural Balance*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Vestibular Function Tests
  • Youth Sports / injuries*