Purpose: The development of efficient and independent walking is an important therapeutic goal for many children with cerebral palsy (CP). Consequently, there has been growing interest in determining the effects of treadmill training programs for these children.
Method: A systematic review of the literature was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of treadmill training for children with CP. Relevant trials were identified by searching electronic databases and by citation tracking.
Results: Of 125 papers initially identified, five met the criteria for review. Results showed that treadmill training is safe and feasible for children with CP across a wide range of ages and functional abilities. Children with more severely affected walking ability significantly increased their walking speed (d = 1.48, 95% CI: 0.49-2.40) and gross motor performance (d = 1.5, 95% CI: 0.50-2.50) after training. However, the results also suggested that treadmill speed and length of training sessions might need to be set to specifically match desired intervention goals such as increasing walking speed or endurance.
Conclusions: The review suggests that treadmill training is safe and feasible for children with CP and indicates that there may be some positive benefits in walking speed over short distances and in general gross motor skills. The provision of PBWS may be particularly beneficial for children with more severe walking disability (GMFCS III and IV). Further research is necessary before it can be concluded that treadmill training is beneficial for children with CP.