Can adults with cerebral palsy perform and beneft from ballistic strength training to improve walking outcomes? A mixed methods feasibility study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonBMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2021, 13, 160. 10.1186/s13102-021-00382-1
Background: Power bursts of hips and ankle plantar flexors are prerequisites to walking propulsion. However, these power bursts are reduced during gait for persons with cerebral palsy (CP) and mainly in the ankle plantar flexors. Hence, task specific training, such as ballistic strength training, is suggested to increase muscle power in walking but not investigated in adults with CP. Therefore, the aim was to investigate if adults with CP could perform and benefit from ballistic strength training to improve walking, evaluated through physical measures and self-reported measures and interviews. Methods: In this mixed methods feasibility study, eight ambulatory adults (aged 24–56) with spastic CP conducted ballistic strength training on a glideboard targeting the ankle plantarflexors two times a week for eight weeks. The feasibility of the training was assessed through objectives described by Orsmond and Cohn. Before and after the intervention, physical measures (6-Minute Walk Test and the eight-item High-level Mobility Assessment Tool) and self-reported measures (Patient Global Impression of Change, Numeric Pain Rating Scale, Fatigue Impact and Severity Self-Assessment, and Walk-12) were collected. After the intervention, semi-structured interviews explored experiences of this training. Results: The participants experienced training the ankle plantar flexor as relevant but reported it took about four weeks to coordinate the exercises successfully. Although we observed no changes in the physical performance measures, most participants reported improvements; some felt steadier when standing, walking, and hopping. Conclusion: This study demonstrated that ballistic strength training was feasible and suitable in adults with CP. However, guidance and a long (4 weeks) familiarization time were reported necessary to master the exercises. Most participants reported self-experienced improvements, although no physical performance measures improved. Thus, prolonged intervention may be required for perceived physical improvements to emerge. Also, other outcome measures sensitive to power output remains to be investigated.