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European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2013 February;49(1):67-91


lingua: Inglese

Treadmill interventions with partial body weight support in children under six years of age at risk of neuromotor delay: a report of a Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis

Valentin-Gudiol M. 1, Bagur-Calafat C. 1, Girabent-Farrés M. 2, Hadders-Algra M. 3, Mattern-Baxter K. 4, Angulo-Barroso R. 5

1 Department of Physical Therapy, Universitat International de Catalunya, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Spain; 2 Department of Biostatistics, Universitat International de Catalunya, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Spain; 3 Department of Pediatrics, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands; 4 Department of Physical Therapy, California State University, Sacramento, CA, USA; 5 Health and Applied Sciences, INEFC, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain


Delayed motor development may occur in children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or children born preterm, which in turn may limit the child’s opportunities to explore the environment. Neurophysiologic and early intervention literature suggests that task-specific training facilitates motor development. Treadmill intervention is a good example of locomotor task-specific training.
Aim: The aim of this paper was to assess the effectiveness of treadmill intervention on locomotor motor development in pre-ambulatory infants and children under six years of age who are at risk for neuromotor delay.
Design: A Cochrane systematic review with meta-analysis.
Methods: We employed a comprehensive search strategy. We included randomised, quasi-randomised and controlled clinical trials that evaluated the effect of treadmill intervention in children up to six years of age with delays in gait development or the attainment of independent walking or who were at risk of neuromotor delay. We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Science Citation Index, PEDro, CPCI-S and LILACS; and also ICTRP, ClinicalTrials.gov, mRCT and CenterWatch. Four authors independently extracted the data using standardized forms.
Results: We included five studies, which reported on treadmill intervention in 139 children. Of the 139 children, 73 were allocated to treadmill intervention groups. The studies varied in the type of population studied, the type of comparison, the time of evaluation and the parameters assessed. Due to the diversity of the studies, we were only able to use data from three studies in meta-analyses and these were limited to two outcomes: age of onset of independent walking and gross motor function. Evidence suggested that treadmill intervention could lead to earlier onset of independent walking when compared to no treadmill intervention (effect estimate -1.47; 95% CI: -2.97, 0.03), though these trials studied two different populations: Down syndrome and children at risk of neuromotor disabilities. Children with Down syndrome seemed to benefit while it was not clear if this was the case for children at high risk of neuromotor disabilities. Two other studies, both in children with Down syndrome, compared different types of treadmill intervention (high versus low intensity training). Both were inconclusive regarding the impact of these different protocols on the age at which children started to walk. There is insufficient evidence to determine whether treadmill intervention improves gross motor function (effect estimate 0.88; 95% CI: -4.54, 6.30).
Conclusion: The current review provided only limited evidence of the efficacy of treadmill intervention in children up to six years of age. Few studies have assessed treadmill interventions in young children using an appropriate control group. The available evidence indicates that treadmill intervention may accelerate the development of independent walking in children with Down syndrome. Further research is needed to confirm this and should also address whether intensive treadmill intervention can accelerate walking onset in young children with cerebral palsy and high risk infants, and whether treadmill intervention has a general effect on gross motor development in the various subgroups of young children at risk for developmental delay.

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