Has this ever happened to you? You learn something new. It could be a new word, phrase, place, or concept. Then all the sudden, you see it or hear mention of it all over the place! The feeling of, “That’s funny, I just heard about that yesterday!” Well, it turns out there’s a name for that: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon aka frequency illusion. This is most definitely what I experienced once I learned of the “vertical tibia”. Once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it. I never really noticed it before, but now it leaps out at me when I work with my toddlers. Even more importantly, I take note of when I DON’T see it! So what on earth is the “vertical tibia”?
The tibia is the technical term for your shin bone. Unlike grown-ups and kids who have been walking for quite awhile, new walkers keep their tibias vertical during gait and especially when squatting down to the floor. Their shin doesn’t drift forward over their foot like mine does. They keep everything locked in….spine and pelvis become one unit, and tibias remain vertical over a foot that is facing forward and has all its weight in the heel. Why is this a big deal? You can feel it for yourself that if you do a squat with a straight back and your weight in your heels that your abs, gluteals, and quads turn on big time. These are all the muscles that make up the “core” that provide us with postural control. They keep us stable as we move through space. So what happens with new walkers? They fall. A LOT. In fact, new walkers average around 17 falls PER HOUR. And what happens when they fall? They get back up through a beautiful vertical tibia squat that helps them get stronger with each of those 17 falls.
Now when I see a toddler squat with a vertical tibia, I get excited and think “there it is!!!” because I know he has good postural control or at least he’s working on it. If I don’t see it, I will instead typically see a deeeeeeep squat with a tibia drifting so far forward that the ankle and shin are coming really close together. In this case, I make the vertical tibia happen by giving the toddler something with some weight to pick up. This could be picking up a ball for a catch back and forth with mom or helping to clean up by lifting bigger toys up from the floor with both hands. They will have to counterbalance the weight by shifting back into their heels and then YAY! that tibia goes vertical, just the way I like it!
I should say that as children grow and change in proportion, around 2 years old, we see the vertical tibia in a squat less and less. There is a small window of time to catch it in action. Don’t worry, though. Now that I’ve mentioned it, I’m sure you’ll see it thanks to Baader-Meinhof!