Variability of Leg Kinematics during Overground Walking in Persons with Chronic Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury.
Sohn WJ, Tan AQ, Hayes HB, Pochiraju S, Deffeyes J, Trumbower RD
Incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) often leads to partial disruption of spinal pathways that are important for motor control of walking. Persons with iSCI present with deficits in walking ability in part because of inconsistent leg kinematics during stepping. Although kinematic variability is important for normal walking, growing evidence indicates that excessive variability may limit walking ability and increase reliance on assistive devices (AD) after iSCI. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of iSCI-induced impairments on kinematic variability during overground walking. We hypothesized that iSCI results in greater variability of foot and joint displacement during overground walking compared with controls. We further hypothesized that variability is larger in persons with limited walking speed and greater reliance on ADs. To test these hypotheses, iSCI and control subjects walked overground. Kinematic variability was quantified as step-to-step foot placement variability (end-point), and variability in hip-knee, hip-ankle, and knee-ankle joint space (angular coefficient of correspondence [ACC]). We characterized sensitivity of kinematic variability to cadence, auditory cue, and AD. Supporting our hypothesis, persons with iSCI exhibited greater kinematic variability than controls, which scaled with deficits in overground walking speed (p < 0.01). Significant correlation between ACC and end-point variability, and with walking speed, indicates that both are markers of walking performance. Moreover, hip-knee and hip-ankle ACC discriminated AD use, indicating that ACC may capture AD-specific control strategies. We conclude that increased variability of foot and joint displacement are indicative of motor impairment severity and may serve as therapeutic targets to restore walking after iSCI.