Multilevel upper body movement control during gait in children with cerebral palsy

Aurora Summa, Giuseppe Vannozzi, Elena Bergamini, Marco Iosa, Daniela Morelli, Aurelio Cappozzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Upper body movements during walking provide information about balance control and gait stability. Typically developing (TD) children normally present a progressive decrease of accelerations from the pelvis to the head, whereas children with cerebral palsy (CP) exhibit a general increase of upper body accelerations. However, the literature describing how they are transmitted from the pelvis to the head is lacking. This study proposes a multilevel motion sensor approach to characterize upper body accelerations and how they propagate from pelvis to head in children with CP, comparing with their TD peers. Two age- and gender-matched groups of 20 children performed a 10m walking test at self-selected speed while wearing three magneto-inertial sensors located at pelvis, sternum, and head levels. The root mean square value of the accelerations at each level was computed in a local anatomical frame and its variation from lower to upper levels was described using attenuation coefficients. Between-group differences were assessed performing an ANCOVA, while the mutual dependence between acceleration components and the relationship between bio-mechanical parameters and typical clinical scores were investigated using Regression Analysis and Spearman's Correlation, respectively (a = 0.05). New insights were obtained on how the CP group managed the transmission of accelerations through the upper body. Despite a significant reduction of the acceleration from pelvis to sternum, children with CP do not compensate for large accelerations, which are greater than in TD children. Furthermore, those with CP showed negative sternum-to-head attenuations, in agreement with the documented rigidity of the head-trunk system observed in this population. In addition, the estimated parameters proved to correlate with the scores used in daily clinical practice. The proposed multilevel approach was fruitful in highlighting CP-TD gait differences, supported the in-field quantitative gait assessment in children with CP and might prove beneficial to designing innovative intervention protocols based on pelvis stabilization.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0151792
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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