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A systematic review of sensorimotor function during adolescence: a developmental stage of increased motor awkwardness?


Background Although adolescent motor awkwardness and increased injury susceptibility have often been speculated and researched, studies regarding adolescent regressions in motor control have yielded inconsistent conclusions. Thus, the relationship between adolescent maturation and injury risk remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature relative to two questions: (1) Which sensorimotor mechanisms are not fully mature by the time children reach adolescence? and (2) Is adolescence a period when children exhibit delays or regressions in sensorimotor mechanisms?

Methods Systematic searches for keywords were performed in February 2010 using PubMed MEDLINE (from 1966), CINAHL (from 1982) and SPORTDiscus (from 1985) databases. Articles were reviewed relative to predetermined criteria, and the methodological quality of each included study was assessed.

Results The search identified 2304 studies, of which 33 studies met the inclusion criteria. All 33 identified studies provided results associated with Question 1, 6 of which also yielded results pertaining to Question 2. The search results indicated that many aspects of sensorimotor function continue to mature throughout adolescence, and at least some children experience delays or regressions in at least some sensorimotor mechanisms. The results also exposed several significant weaknesses in our knowledge base.

Conclusion The identified knowledge gaps are critical barriers because they hinder methods for identifying children at high risk and diminish the efficacy of targeted prevention programmes. Implications regarding research on adolescent injury risk are discussed and recommendations for future research such as improved methodological designs and integration of non-linear analyses are provided.

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