Influence of a locomotor training approach on walking speed and distance in people with chronic spinal cord injury: A randomized clinical trial

Edelle C. Field-Fote, Kathryn E. Roach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Scopus citations


Background. Impaired walking limits function after spinal cord injury (SCI), but training-related improvements are possible even in people with chronic motor incomplete SCI. Objective. The objective of this study was to compare changes in walking speed and distance associated with 4 locomotor training approaches. Design. This study was a single-blind, randomized clinical trial. Setting. This study was conducted in a rehabilitation research laboratory. Participants. Participants were people with minimal walking function due to chronic SCI. Intervention. Participants (n=74) trained 5 days per week for 12 weeks with the following approaches: treadmill-based training with manual assistance (TM), treadmill-based training with stimulation (TS), overground training with stimulation (OG), and treadmill-based training with robotic assistance (LR). Measurements. Overground walking speed and distance were the primary outcome measures. Results. In participants who completed the training (n=64), there were overall effects for speed (effect size index [d]=0.33) and distance (d=0.35). For speed, there were no significant between-group differences; however, distance gains were greatest with OG. Effect sizes for speed and distance were largest with OG (d=0.43 and d=0.40, respectively). Effect sizes for speed were the same for TM and TS (d=0.28); there was no effect for LR. The effect size for distance was greater with TS (d=0.16) than with TM or LR, for which there was no effect. Ten participants who improved with training were retested at least 6 months after training; walking speed at this time was slower than that at the conclusion of training but remained faster than before training. Limitations. It is unknown whether the training dosage and the emphasis on training speed were optimal. Robotic training that requires active participation would likely yield different results. Conclusions. In people with chronic motor incomplete SCI, walking speed improved with both overground training and treadmill-based training; however, walking distance improved to a greater extent with overground training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-60
Number of pages13
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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