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BACKGROUND: The measurement of gait is likely influenced by walking speed in children with hemiplegia, but this relationship is not well characterized.
RESEARCH QUESTION: What is the influence of walking speed on spatiotemporal and symmetry measures of gait in children with hemiplegia, with consideration of side and footwear condition?
METHODS: Children with hemiparetic gait due to stroke were recruited for a small pilot intervention study. Participants walked at self-selected and fast speeds while barefoot and while wearing shoes. Data from baseline sessions were included in this analysis. The influence of walking speed on five spatiotemporal gait measures was determined using a generalized estimating equation to calculate the proportion of variability in the gait measures that was explained by walking speed. Differences between sides and footwear conditions, and the relationships between walking speed and two symmetry measures, are also reported.
RESULTS: A total of 820 steps were analyzed from ten children (11.2 ± 4.1 years). Walking velocity significantly influenced all spatiotemporal measures of gait. As speed increased, step length increased and all temporal measures decreased, on both paretic and nonparetic sides. Wearing shoes increased step length and stance time for both paretic and nonparetic sides, and slowed step time on the nonparetic side. Regardless of footwear, the paretic side demonstrated slower step and swing times, and faster stance and single support times. We did not observe significant relationships between walking speed and gait symmetry.
SIGNIFICANCE: Our observations suggest that walking speed alone influences the spatiotemporal measurement of gait in children with hemiplegia and should be considered in the interpretation of walking function. Yet, controlling for walking speed is often not feasible or not preferred in this population. We offer suggestions for clinicians and researchers who seek to measure gait during overground walking at freely-selected speeds.