Starfish Therapies

November 2, 2012

Treadmill Training and Cerebral Palsy

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 pm
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Here are synopses of two studies looking at the use of treadmill training in children with cerebral palsy.

Recently, there has been great interest by pediatric therapists in gait training using a treadmill and it’s effects on gross motor function and ambulation in children with neuromuscular disabilities.  One study in particular looked at the effects of a short-term, intensive, locomotor treadmill training program in children with CP between 2.5-3.9 years of age.  The purpose was to see if this type of training would improve gross motor function related to walking speed and abilities.

Six children participated in an intensive treadmill training program three times a week for four weeks. Their function was measured before, after, and then again at a 1-month follow up using different gross motor function and mobility measures as well as walking speed and ability measures.

The results were significantly improved gross motor function as well as walking speed and distance. Therefore, the authors concluded that there is preliminary evidence that children younger than 4 years can improve their gross motor function, walking speed, and walking endurance after participating in a short-term intensive treadmill training program.

Mattern-Baxter K, Bellamy S; Mansoor JK. Effects of Intensive Locomotor Treadmill Training on Young Children with Cerebral Palsy. Pediatric Physical Therapy. Win 2009, Vol 21 (4); 308-318.

A couple of weeks ago, a few of us traveled to the California Physical Therapy Association’s (CPTA) Annual Conference where we had the opportunity to attend presentations on the latest research being performed our colleagues and network with other physical therapists. There were a few presentations related to pediatric physical therapy, one of which we found very interesting and thought would be good information to pass along. One of the research podium presentations that we attended was on the effects of intensive, short-term treadmill training on gross motor function in young children with cerebral palsy. A special thanks to Dr. Mattern-Baxter, based out of California State University, Sacramento for her research and presentation.

Toddlers, between the ages of 15 and 31 months, received intensive, home-based treadmill training for 6 weeks. The children, who received the home-based treadmill training, were compared to a control group of children with cerebral palsy who did not receive the treadmill training. The two groups of children were compared at one month post training and again at four months. At one month post training, the children who received the training demonstrated significant improvements in their ability to ambulate with a less restrictive assistive device as well as improvements in their walking speed. However, at four months post-training, the two groups were very similar in the types of assistive devices they were using as well as the speed at which they were walking.

Take Home Message: The intensive treadmill training that was completed did allow children with cerebral palsy to walk more independently and at a faster speed, more quickly than those children who did not receive the training. However, all children demonstrated similar abilities in the long term. Therefore, while intensive treadmill training may be beneficial to help children walk more independently in the short term, it has not been shown to have lasting effects that give these children advantages over their peers in the long run.


Mattern-Baxter K1, McNeil S2, Mansoor JK1

1. Physical Therapy, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, USA;

2. Easter Seals, Sacramento, CA, USA


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