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Different gait tasks distinguish immediate vs. long-term effects of concussion on balance control

Robert D Catena, Paul van Donkelaar and Li-Shan Chou*

Author Affiliations

Motion Analysis Laboratory, Department of Human Physiology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1240, USA

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2009, 6:25  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-6-25

Published: 7 July 2009


The purpose of this study was to longitudinally compare the sensitivity of previously documented paradigms for measuring balance control during gait following a concussion. We hypothesized that gait with a concurrent cognitive task would be most sensitive to the effects of concussion on dynamic balance control. Individuals with concussion (n = 30) and matched controls (n = 30) performed a single task of level walking, attention divided walking, and an obstacle-crossing task at two heights. Testing occurred four times post-injury. Balance control during gait was assessed with whole-body center of mass and center of pressure motion. The single-task level walking task did not result in any significant differences in balance control between individuals with concussion and control subjects. Within 48 hours post-injury, individuals with concussion walked slower and allowed less motion of their center of mass in the sagittal plane when attention was divided during walking, but there were no group differences by day 6 for this task. Group differences in balance control during obstacle crossing was unremarkable during the first two testing sessions, but by day 14 individuals with concussion displayed less mediolateral motion of their center of mass. Attention divided gait is able to better distinguish gait adaptations immediately following a concussion, but obstacle crossing can be used further along in the recovery process to detect new gait adaptations.