Background: Adaptive balance control is often compromised in children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Neuromuscular training (NMT) is commonly used in clinical settings to improve neuromuscular control and hence balance performance in these children. However, its effectiveness has not been proven scientifically. This randomized controlled study aimed to explore the effectiveness of NMT for improving adaptive balance performance and the associated leg muscle activation times in children with DCD.
Methods: Eighty-eight children with DCD were randomly assigned to the NMT or control group (44 per group). The NMT group received two 40-minute NMT sessions/week for 3 months, whereas the control group received no intervention. The outcomes were measured at baseline and 3 and 6 months. The primary outcome was the sway energy score (SES) in both the toes-up and toes-down conditions as derived using the Adaptation Test (ADT). Secondary outcomes included the medial gastrocnemius, medial hamstring, tibialis anterior and rectus femoris muscle activation onset latencies during ADT, measured using surface electromyography and accelerometry. Data were analyzed using a repeated measures analysis of covariance based on the intention-to-treat principle.
Results: At 3 months, no significant within-group or between-group differences were noted in the SESs for either group. At 6 months, the toes-down SES decreased by 6.8% compared to the baseline value in exclusively the NMT group (P = .004). No significant time, group or group-by-time interaction effects were observed in any leg muscle activation outcomes.
Conclusions: Short-term NMT failed to improve adaptive balance performance and leg muscle activation times in children with DCD. Further studies should explore the clinical applications of longer-term task-specific interventions intended to improve the adaptive balance performance of these children.