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Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2017 Sep;31(9):842-850. doi: 10.1177/1545968317723751. Epub 2017 Aug 8.

Ten Meters Walking Speed in Spinal Cord-Injured Patients: Does Speed Predict Who Walks and Who Rolls?

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1 Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
2 Klinik Hohe Warte Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany.
3 Balgrist University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.



Walking speed is assumed to be a key factor in regaining ambulation after spinal cord injury (SCI). However, from the literature it remains unclear which walking speed usually results in independent community ambulation.


The primary aim of this study was to determine at which walking speed SCI patients tend to walk in the community instead of using a wheelchair. The secondary aim was to investigate clinical conditions that favor independent ambulation in the community.


Data from SCI patients were collected retrospectively from the European Multicenter Study about Spinal Cord Injury database. We determined a cutoff walking speed at which the patients tend to walk in the community by plotting a receiver operating characteristics curve, using the Spinal Cord Independence Measure for outdoor mobility. Univariate analyses investigated which factors influence independent community ambulation.


A walking speed of 0.59 m/s is the cutoff between patients who do and do not ambulate independently in the community, with a sensitivity of 91.6% and a specificity of 80.3%. Age, injury severity, and lower limb muscle strength have a significant influence on independent community ambulation.


Patients with an SCI who regain a walking speed of 0.59 m/s tend to achieve a level of walking effectiveness that allows for independent community walking. Although such patients tend to be younger and less severely injured, this walking speed can be a target for locomotor training in rehabilitation and clinical trials that lead to a meaningful outcome level of community walking.


ambulation; spinal cord injury; walking speed

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