External Mechanical Work and Pendular Energy Transduction of Overground and Treadmill Walking in Adolescents with Unilateral Cerebral Palsy

Front Physiol. 2016 Apr 13:7:121. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00121. eCollection 2016.


Purpose: Motor impairments affect functional abilities and gait in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP). Improving their walking is an essential objective of treatment, and the use of a treadmill for gait analysis and training could offer several advantages in adolescents with CP. However, there is a controversy regarding the similarity between treadmill and overground walking both for gait analysis and training in children and adolescents. The aim of this study was to compare the external mechanical work and pendular energy transduction of these two types of gait modalities at standard and preferred walking speeds in adolescents with unilateral cerebral palsy (UCP) and typically developing (TD) adolescents matched on age, height and body mass.

Methods: Spatiotemporal parameters, external mechanical work and pendular energy transduction of walking were computed using two inertial sensors equipped with a triaxial accelerometer and gyroscope and compared in 10 UCP (14.2 ± 1.7 year) and 10 TD (14.1 ± 1.9 year) adolescents during treadmill and overground walking at standard and preferred speeds.

Results: The treadmill induced almost identical mechanical changes to overground walking in TD adolescents and those with UCP, with the exception of potential and kinetic vertical and lateral mechanical works, which are both significantly increased in the overground-treadmill transition only in UCP (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Adolescents with UCP have a reduced adaptive capacity in absorbing and decelerating the speed created by a treadmill (i.e., dynamic stability) compared to TD adolescents. This may have an important implication in rehabilitation programs that assess and train gait by using a treadmill in adolescents with UCP.

Keywords: biomechanics; exercise; gait; human locomotion; inverted pendulum.