The nature of arm movement in children with cerebral palsy when using computer-generated exercise games

Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2014 May;9(3):219-25. doi: 10.3109/17483107.2013.782576. Epub 2013 Apr 18.


Purpose: To compare upper limb kinematics of children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP) using a passive rehabilitation joystick with those of adults and able-bodied children, to better understand the design requirements of computer-based rehabilitation devices.

Method: A blocked comparative study involving seven children with spastic CP, nine able-bodied adults and nine able-bodied children, using a joystick system to play a computer game whilst the kinematics of their upper limb were recorded. The translational kinematics of the joystick's end point and the participant's shoulder movement (protraction/retraction) and elbow rotational kinematics (flexion/extension) were analysed for each group.

Results: Children with spastic CP matched their able-bodied peers in the time taken to complete the computer task, but this was due to a failure to adhere to the task instructions of travelling along a prescribed straight line when moving between targets. The spastic CP group took longer to initiate the first movement, which showed jerkier trajectories and demonstrated qualitatively different movement patterns when using the joystick, with shoulder movements that were significantly of greater magnitude than the able-bodied participants.

Conclusions: Children with spastic CP generate large shoulder and hence trunk movements when using a joystick to undertake computer-generated arm exercises. This finding has implications for the development and use of assistive technologies to encourage exercise and the instructions given to users of such systems.

Implications for rehabilitation: A kinematic analysis of upper limb function of children with CP when using joystick devices is presented. Children with CP may use upper body movements to compensate for limitations in voluntary shoulder and elbow movements when undertaking computer games designed to encourage the practice of arm movement. The design of rehabilitative computer exercise systems should consider movement of the torso/shoulder as it may have implications for the quality of therapy in the rehabilitation of the upper limb in children with CP.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Arm*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cerebral Palsy / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Spasticity / rehabilitation
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Video Games*
  • Young Adult