Individuals with cerebral palsy can have weak and poorly coordinated ankle plantar flexor muscles that contribute to inefficient walking patterns. Previous studies attempting to improve plantar flexor function have had inconsistent effects on mobility, likely due to a lack of task-specificity. The goal of this study was to develop, validate, and test the feasibility and neuromuscular response of a novel wearable adaptive resistance platform to increase activity of the plantar flexors during the propulsive phase of gait. We recruited eight individuals with spastic cerebral palsy to walk with adaptive plantar flexor resistance provided from an untethered exoskeleton. The resistance system and protocol was safe and feasible for all of our participants. Controller validation demonstrated our ability to provide resistance that proportionally- and instantaneously-adapted to the biological ankle moment (R = 0.92 ± 0.04). Following acclimation to resistance (0.16 ± 0.02 Nm/kg), more-affected limbs exhibited a 45 ± 35% increase in plantar flexor activity (p = 0.02), a 26 ± 24% decrease in dorsiflexor activity (p < 0.05), and a 46 ± 25% decrease in co-contraction (tibialis anterior and soleus) (p = 0.02) during the stance phase. This adaptive resistance system warrants further investigation for use in a longitudinal intervention study.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering