The purpose of this study was to characterize balance in individuals with and without an incomplete spinal cord injury (ISCI) during the single support phase of gait. Thirty-four individuals (17 with a ISCI, 17 able-bodied) walked at their self-selected walking speed. Among those, eighteen individuals (9 with ISCI, 9 able-bodied) with a similar walking speed were also analyzed. Stabilizing and destabilizing forces quantified balance during the single support phase of gait. The biomechanical factors included in the equation of the stabilizing and destabilizing forces served as explanatory factors. Individuals with ISCI had a lower stabilizing force and a higher destabilizing force compared to able-bodied individuals. The main explanatory factors of the forces extracted from the equations were the speed of the center of mass (maximal stabilizing force) and the distance between the center of pressure and the base of support (minimal destabilizing force). Only the minimal destabilizing force was significantly different among subgroups with a similar walking speed. The stabilizing and destabilizing forces suggest that individuals with ISCI were more stable than able-bodied, which was achieved by walking more slowly - which decrease the speed of the center of mass - and keeping the center of pressure away from the margin of the base of support in order to maintain balance within their range of physical ability.
Keywords: Balance; Biomechanics; Gait; Rehabilitation; Spinal cord injury.
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