Strength Training for Adolescents with cerebral palsy (STAR)
Children’s charity Action Medical Research and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust
Principal investigator: Dr Jennifer Ryan
Co-investigator: Dr. Thomas Korff, Dr. Cherry Kilbride, Professor Bill Baltzopoulos, Dr. Charlotte Waugh, Dr. Nicola Theis, Dr. Adam Shortland, Ms. Wendy Levin.
Around one in every 400 people has cerebral palsy in the UK. They will experience lifelong problems with movement and coordination, which vary greatly from one child to another. A lot of teenagers with cerebral palsy can walk without any kind of walking aid, however, they tend to walk more slowly than other teenagers and walking takes more effort. Unfortunately walking difficulties often become worse as teenagers become young adults. Also, associated reductions in levels of activity may put people with cerebral palsy at increased risk of getting heart disease and type 2 diabetes at a young age. The aim of this project is to find out whether teenagers with cerebral palsy who perform exercises that strengthen calf muscles find walking easier.
For each participant, the programme will start with a clinical assessment involving muscle strength, muscle and tendon biomechanical properties, motor function and energy measurements in the university’s biomechanics laboratory. This will be followed by regular exercise sessions led by a physiotherapist over 10 weeks. Group exercise sessions take place at NHS sites or in nearby gyms. Teenagers will be reassessed after 10 weeks and again after 22 weeks. If the exercise programme proves beneficial, it could lead to improvements in the physiotherapy that’s offered to teenagers with cerebral palsy and provide them with a programme that they can continue to perform independently in their local gym. In the long run, this work could enable people with cerebral palsy to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible, and improve their general level of wellbeing.