A child with Down syndrome may have weak muscle tone (hypotonia). He or she may also have ligaments that are too loose (ligament laxity). This leads to excessive joint flexibility.
Associated findings include:
- Developmental delays. A child with Down syndrome will eventually reach the same growth milestones as other children. But, he or she may be slow learning to turn over, sit, stand, walk or do other physical activities.
- Joint instability. Children with Down syndrome may have joints, such as the hip or knee, which slip out of place or become dislocated. Joint laxity in the neck may be excessive. This can lead to compression of the spinal cord.
Other Problems. Down syndrome may also lead to other problems, such as flat feet and bunions.
In some people with Down syndrome, the upper part of the spine (cervical) is abnormal under the base of the skull. Muscles are weak and ligaments may be looser than they should be. Potentially, this can cause bones (vertebrae) in the neck to press on the spinal cord, leading to an inability to coordinate muscle movement and weakness.
Any progressive changes in a child with Down syndrome should be brought to the doctor's attention. These changes may include:
- clumsiness and tripping;
- Walking with stiff legs;
- having a stiff neck, neck pain, and headaches.
The doctor may recommend taking X-rays of your child's neck to look for joint laxity.
In some cases, a child may be kept out of contact sports or other activities that put stress on the neck, such as high jumping, diving, gymnastics, and using a trampoline.