Objective: Compare the effects of treadmill training and training with overground walking (both without partial weight support) on motor skills in children with cerebral palsy.
Design: Randomized controlled clinical trial.
Setting: Physical therapy clinics.
Subjects: Thirty-six children with cerebral palsy (levels I-III of the Gross Motor Functional Classification System) randomly divided into two intervention groups.
Interventions: Experimental group (17 children) submitted to treadmill training without partial weight support. Overground walking group (18 children) submitted to gait training on a fixed surface (ground). Training was performed for seven consecutive weeks (two sessions per week), with four subsequent weeks of follow-up.
Results: Both groups demonstrated improvements on the 6-minute walk test (experimental group from 227.4 SD 49.4 to 377.2 SD 93.0; overground walking group from 222.6 SD 42.6 to 268.0 SD 45.0), timed up-and-go test (experimental group from 14.3 SD 2.9 to 7.8 SD 2.2; overground walking group from 12.8 SD 2.2 to 10.5 SD 2.5), Pediatric Evaluation Disability Inventory (experimental group from 128.0 SD 19.9 to 139.0 SD 18.4; overground walking group from 120.8 SD 19.0 to 125.8 SD 12.2), Gross Motor Function Measure-88 (experimental group from 81.6 SD 8.7 to 93.0 SD 5.7; overground walking group from 77.3 SD 7.0 to 80.8 SD 7.2), Berg Balance Scale (experimental group from 34.9 SD 8.5 to 46.7 SD 7.6; overground walking group from 31.9 SD 7.0 to 35.7 SD 6.8) after treatment. The experimental group demonstrated greater improvements than the overground walking group both after treatment and during follow up (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Treadmill training proved more effective than training with overground walking regarding functional mobility, functional performance, gross motor function and functional balance in children with cerebral palsy.
Keywords: Cerebral palsy; children; gait; physiotherapy.