J Neurotrauma., Feb 2018

Constraints on Stance-Phase Force Production during Overground Walking in Persons with Chronic Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury.

Peters DM, Thibaudier Y, Deffeyes JE, Baer GT, Hayes HB, Trumbower RD

Persons with incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) face ongoing struggles with walking, including reduced speed and increased reliance on assistive devices (ADs). The forces underlying body weight support and gait, as measured by ground reaction forces (GRFs), are likely altered after iSCI because of weakness and AD dependence but have not been studied. The purpose of this study was to examine GRF production during overground walking after iSCI, because greater insight into GRF constraints is important for refining therapeutic interventions. Because of reduced and discoordinated motor output after iSCI, we hypothesized that persons with iSCI would exert smaller GRFs and altered GRF modifications to increased cadence compared with able-bodied (AB) persons, especially when using an AD. Fifteen persons with chronic iSCI, stratified into no AD (n = 7) and AD (n = 8) groups, walked across an instrumented walkway at self-selected and fast (115% self-selected) cadences. Fifteen age-matched AB controls walked at their own cadences and iSCI-matched conditions (cadence and AD). Results showed fore-aft GRFs are reduced in persons with iSCI compared with AB controls, with reductions greatest in persons dependent on an AD. When controlling for cadence and AD, propulsive forces were still lower in persons with iSCI. Compared with AB controls, persons with iSCI demonstrated altered GRF modifications to increased cadence. Persons with iSCI exhibit different stance-phase forces compared with AB controls, which are impacted further by AD use and slower walking speed. Minimizing AD use and/or providing propulsive biofeedback during walking could enhance GRF production after iSCI.


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