To assess the effects of the initial stepping limb on posterior fall recovery in individuals with chronic stroke, as well as to determine the benefits of fall-recovery training on these outcomes.
This was a single-group intervention study of 13 individuals with chronic stroke. Participants performed up to six training sessions, each including progressively challenging, treadmill-induced perturbations from a standing position. Progressions focused on initial steps with the paretic or non-paretic limb. The highest perturbation level achieved, the proportion of successful recoveries, step and trunk kinematics, as well as stance-limb muscle activation about the ankle were compared between the initial stepping limbs in the first session. Limb-specific outcomes were also compared between the first and last training sessions.
In the first session, initial steps with the non-paretic limb were associated with a higher proportion of success and larger perturbations than steps with the paretic limb (p = 0.02, Cohen’s d = 0.8). Paretic-limb steps were wider relative to the center of mass (CoM; p = 0.01, d = 1.3), likely due to an initial standing position with the CoM closer to the non-paretic limb (p = 0.01, d = 1.4). In the last training session, participants recovered from a higher proportion of perturbations and advanced to larger perturbations (p 0.6). There were no notable changes in kinematic or electromyography variables with training (p > 0.07, d < 0.5).
The skill of posterior stepping in response to a perturbation can be improved with practice in those with chronic stroke, we were not able to identify consistent underlying kinematic mechanisms behind this adaptation.
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