Volume 50 Number 4, 2013
Pages 555 — 572
Abstract — Mechanical impedance of the ankle is known to influence key aspects of ankle function. We investigated the effects of robot-assisted ankle training in people with chronic stroke on the paretic ankle’s passive stiffness and its relationship to overground gait function. Over 6 wk, eight participants with residual hemiparetic deficits engaged in a visuomotor task while seated that required dorsiflexion (DF) or plantar flexion (PF) of their paretic ankle with an ankle robot ("anklebot") assisting as needed. Passive ankle stiffness (PAS) was measured in both the trained sagittal and untrained frontal planes. After 6 wk, the PAS decreased in both DF and PF and reverted into the variability of age-matched controls in DF. Changes in PF PAS correlated strongly with gains in paretic step lengths (Spearman rho = −0.88, p = 0.03) and paretic stride lengths (Spearman rho = −0.82, p = 0.05) during independent floor walking. Moreover, baseline PF PAS were correlated with gains in paretic step lengths (Spearman rho = 0.94, p = 0.01), paretic stride lengths (Spearman rho = 0.83, p = 0.05), and single-support stance duration (Spearman rho = 0.94, p = 0.01); and baseline eversion PAS were correlated with gains in cadence (Spearman rho = −0.88, p = 0.03). These findings suggest that ankle robot-assisted, visuomotor-based, isolated ankle training has a positive effect on paretic ankle PAS that strongly influences key measures of gait function.
Key words: ankle impairment, ankle robot, ankle stiffness, chronic stroke, foot drop, hemiparetic gait, lower limb, motor control, rehabilitation, robotic therapy.
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Last Reviewed or Updated Monday, July 29, 2013 10:23 AM