Objective: Studies have shown that balance performance is better in gymnasts compared to age-/sex-matched controls and further studies revealed superior performance when arms were free to move during assessment of balance. However, it is unknown whether free arm movement during balance testing differentially affects balance performance with respect to sports expertise (i.e., gymnasts are less affected than age-/sex-matched controls). Therefore, we investigated the effect of arm movement on balance performance in young female gymnasts compared to age-/sex-matched controls while performing balance tasks with various difficulty levels.
Results: In both samples, balance performance (except for the timed one-legged stance) was significantly better during free compared to restricted arm movement conditions and this was especially observed in the highest task difficulty condition of the 3-m beam walking backward test. These findings revealed that balance performance is positively affected by free arm movements, but this does not seem to be additionally influenced by the achieved expertise level in young gymnasts.