Written by Emily Hatch, CSCS
Down Syndrome is characterized by “a genetic disorder that results in a trisomy (three copies) of the 21st human chromosome” (Jacobs, L Patrick, 2018). Along with the trisomy of the 21st chromosome, those with Down Syndrome also experience hyper-mobility in multiple joints. This hyper-mobility allows for an adjustment in training modalities for these individuals.
According to OrthoInfo, individuals with Down Syndrome mat experience joint instability within their neck, knees, and hips while also dealing with various foot issues, including bunions and flat feet (2019). In order to improve these areas of the body, it is vital to strengthen the ligaments that are associated with these areas and “have optimal alignment of hips, knees and ankles to support” postural alignment (Gadson et al., 2018). The following exercises are imperative for an optimally designed workout tailored to an individual with Down Syndrome. In addition, these exercises can help to avoid immobilization or surgery.
As important as it is to focus on these target areas, we at Specialty Athletic Training have a main goal of ensuring our workouts are met with motivational fun. And this enjoyment is emphasized through the use music, which is “a universal medium for exercise activities” for those with Down Syndrome (Jacobs, 2018).
In my own experience, our clients with Down Syndrome MUST have the perfect playlist to get ‘pumped up.’ I have listened to a plethora of hip hop and pop music, the most popular being the 2000s throwback hip hop playlist. And I find that the perfect playlist will get our clients moving. I have even learned some new dance moves (that prove much too difficult for myself), have witnessed the positive association between workouts and music, and have even seen the communal bond established between our clients and the student-athletes at Lewis and Clark College, simply through music.
With this being said, the importance of developing a program tailored to joint strengthening in vulnerable areas should always be met with an understanding of the client. Whether it be through weight training, music, dance, or other modalities, being an effective trainer means understanding our clients as a whole human being. So, when you are getting ready to train your next client, turn on those tunes, establish a communal environment and make that workout fun!
Gadson, Andrea PT, MPT; Shimanek,P PT, DPT, (2018, Aug). Physical therapy for adolescents thru adulthood with down syndrome. https://www.nads.org/wpcontent/uploads/2018/08/Shimanek-NADS-2018-PT-for-adolescents-thru-adults-with-DS.pd
Jacobs, Patrick L. (2018). Nsca’s essentials of training special populations. Library of Congress Cataloging-
(2019, Jan). Down syndrome: musculoskeletal effects. OrthoInfo. orthoinfo.aaos.org
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS*D, CSPS*D is the Founder and CEO of Specialty Athletic Training. He is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. Lockard is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America and the advisory board for the NSCA Oregon chapter.