Walking in Water and on Land After an Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

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Abstract

Objective

Although no data are available on the effects of water environment on the gait of subjects with spinal cord injury (SCI), hydrotherapy is used in the rehabilitation protocols of SCI patients. The aim of this study was to characterize gait features of subjects with incomplete SCI walking in water and on land in comparison with healthy controls (CTRLs) to identify the specificity of water environment on influencing gait in SCI subjects.

Design

This is a matched case-control study.

Results

Kinematic gait parameters and range of motion of joint angles of 15 SCI subjects and 15 CTRLs were analyzed. Compared with gait on land, gait in water of the SCI patients was characterized by speed and stance phase reduction, gait cycle time increment, and invariance of stride length and range of motion values. Comparison with CTRL data remarked that walking in water reduces gait differences between the groups. Furthermore, in water, the SCI subjects presented a reduction in variability of the hip and knee joint angles, whereas in the CTRLs, a larger variability was observed.

Conclusions

Gait in water of the SCI subjects is associated with kinematic parameters more similar to those of the CTRLs, particularly regarding speed, stride length, and stance phase, supporting the idea that walking in a water environment may be of rehabilitative significance for SCI subjects.

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