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The Babinski Sign
  1. Jan van Gijn
  1. Department of Neurology, room G03.228, University Medical Centre, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, the Netherlands, Email: j.vangijn{at}



The plantar response is an important part of the neurological examination. Babinski discovered it in 1896, at least he discovered the important difference between the normal response and that in patients with diseases of the brain or spinal cord (Van Gijn 1996). His main aim was to find objective signs to distinguish hysterical from organic paralysis. Examining the plantar reflex is still a valuable routine. Sometimes it adds little to the history and the rest of the examination, for example in a patient with paraplegia, or with migraine (but in those cases at least doing it provides some extra time to think about possible gaps in the history). In other patients, a Babinski sign is an early and sometimes the only clue to an upper motor neurone lesion.

Not only neurologists test the plantar response but also internists, orthopaedic surgeons and general practitioners. It is often found among the

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