Individuals with cerebral palsy often exhibit crouch gait, a debilitating and inefficient walking pattern marked by excessive knee flexion that worsens with age. To address the need for improved treatment, we sought to evaluate if providing external knee extension assistance could reduce the excessive burden placed on the knee extensor muscles as measured by knee moments. We evaluated a novel pediatric exoskeleton designed to provide appropriately-timed extensor torque to the knee joint during walking in a multi-week exploratory clinical study. Seven individuals (5-19 years) with mild-moderate crouch gait from cerebral palsy (GMFCS I-II) completed the study. For six participants, powered knee extension assistance favorably reduced the excessive stance-phase knee extensor moment present during crouch gait by a mean of 35% in early stance and 76% in late stance. Peak stance-phase knee and hip extension increased by 12° and 8°, respectively. Knee extensor muscle activity decreased slightly during exoskeleton-assisted walking compared to baseline, while knee flexor activity was elevated in some participants. These findings support the use of wearable exoskeletons for the management of crouch gait and provide insights into their future implementation.
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