Stackhouse Research to Explore Adolescent Cerebral Palsy

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 29, 2010

Dr. Scott Stackhouse, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy, has been awarded a $40,000 research grant supported by the Foundation for Physical Therapy Inc. for a two-year study on “Combination of High-Intensity Strength and Locomotor Training to Improve Walking Activity in Ambulatory Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy.” Two researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Michael DiIenno D.P.T. and Heather Atkinson D.P.T. will serve as co-investigators. Drs. DiIenno and Atkinson are also Associated Faculty of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Arcadia, and Atkinson was a graduate of Arcadia in 1995 and 1997.

The main aspect of this study aims to determine if a combined treatment of high-intensity strength and locomotor training over an eight-week period will demonstrate meaningful changes in gait speed in adolescents with cerebral palsy during a six-minute walk test.

Stackhouse’s  hypothesis is  that the two different treatments will yield an additive effect.  “Strength training targets the muscles that are involved in supporting the body against gravity and propulsion,” he explains, “while locomotor training targets central nervous system plasticity.”

The researchers will study further the “order effect” of the combined interventions. Their hypothesis is that four weeks of strength training followed by four weeks of locomotor training will have a demonstrated additive effect on gait speed than when the training order is reversed. “We based this hypothesis on the premise that strengthening the muscles of the lower extremity involved in supporting bodyweight and propulsion prior to locomotor training will provide enhanced gains during locomotor training where the emphasis of the training is placed on attaining faster walking speeds using the improved force production,” he adds.