WHAT IS THE BABINSKI REFLEX – AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
By Dr. Christopher Milkie of Milwaukee Foot & Ankle Specialists of Milwaukee, WI
As our online pediatric section grows, it is about time we talk about the Babinski reflex. The Babinski reflex is a normally tested response that examines neurologic function in each and every one of us. The interesting thing about the Babinski reflex, and why no podiatric pediatric reference is complete without discussing it is that it changes in each and every one of us around the time we turn two years old.
A Babinski test is really quite simple to administer. The tester takes either their finger or a small blunt object to the bottom of the patient’s foot. They then proceed to draw a number seven. This is done by starting at the heel and dragging the object or finger to the base of the fifth toe (at the ball of the foot) and then finishing off the seven by moving across the ball of the foot to the big toe. If the motion is accomplished smoothly, with the correct amount of pressure (fairly soft), then a Babinski reflex can be noted.
Overall the results are simple to judge. In adults, the healthy reflex is eliciting a plantar flexion of the hallux. This simply means that the big toe will point downwards. If the opposite happens, where the big toe points up and all of the toes fan out, we can interpret the results of the test as a “positive Babinski sign”. A positive Babinski sign is an indication of an upper motor neuron lesion, or cause for concern about a neurologic problem.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that this is completely different in infants! In children younger than two years old a properly administered Babinski test will cause a “positive Babinski sign”. This means that the babies big toe will point up and all of the toes will fan out, which is the sign of a healthy baby. It is a primitive reflex that is still intact until the baby matures further.
If you have a young one give the Babinski test a try and check out the interesting results! As always, we at Milwaukee Foot Specialists in Milwaukee, WI take pride in our ability to take care of pediatric patients. If you have any questions about your children’s feet, set up an appointment today.
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