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Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2007 Nov-Dec;21(6):475-85. Epub 2007 Mar 16.

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation versus volitional isometric strength training in children with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy: a preliminary study.

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Department of Physical Therapy, Arcadia University, Glenside, PA, USA.



To date, no reports have investigated neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) to increase muscle force production of children with cerebral palsy (CP) using high-force contractions and low repetitions.


The aims of this study were to determine if isometric NMES or volitional training in children with CP could increase muscle strength and walking speed and to examine the mechanisms that may contribute to increased force production.


Eleven children with spastic diplegia were assigned to an NMES training group or to a volitional training group. Participants in the NMES group had electrodes implanted percutaneously to activate the quadriceps femoris and triceps surae muscles. The volitional group trained with maximal effort contractions. Both groups performed a 12-week isometric strength-training program. Maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) force, voluntary muscle activation, quadriceps and triceps surae cross-sectional area (CSA), and walking speed were measured pre- and post-strength training.


The NMES-trained group had greater increases in normalized force production for both the quadriceps femoris and triceps surae. Similarly, only the NMES group showed an increase in walking speed after training. Changes in voluntary muscle activation explained approximately 67% and 37% of the changes seen in the MVIC of the NMES and volitional groups, respectively. Quadriceps femoris maximum CSA increased significantly for the NMES group only.


This study was the first to quantitatively show strength gains with the use of NMES in children with CP. These results support the need for future experimental studies that will examine the clinical effectiveness of NMES strength training.

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