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Top Stroke Rehabil. 2019 Jul;26(5):382-388. doi: 10.1080/10749357.2019.1609182. Epub 2019 May 12.

Assessment of backward walking unmasks mobility impairments in post-stroke community ambulators.

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a Department of Physical Therapy , University of Florida , Gainesville , FL , USA.
b Brooks Rehabilitation , Jacksonville , FL , USA.
c Department of Clinical and Applied Movement Sciences , University of North Florida , Jacksonville , FL , USA.
d Brain Rehabilitation Research Center of Excellence, North FL/South GA Veterans Health System , Gainesville , FL , USA.
e Department of Aging and Geriatric Research , University of Florida , Gainesville , FL , USA.


Background: While over half of stroke survivors recover the ability to walk without assistance, deficits persist in the performance of walking adaptations necessary for safe home and community mobility. One such adaptation is the ability to walk or step backward. Post-stroke rehabilitation rarely includes backward walking (BW) assessment and BW deficits have not been quantified in post-stroke community ambulators. Objective: To quantify spatiotemporal and kinematic BW characteristics in post-stroke community ambulators and compare their performance to controls. Methods: Individuals post-stroke (n = 15, 60.1 ± 12.9 years, forward speed: 1.13 ± 0.23 m/s) and healthy adults (n = 12, 61.2 ± 16.2 years, forward speed: 1.40 ± 0.13 m/s) performed forward walking (FW) and BW during a single session. Step characteristics and peak lower extremity joint angles were extracted using 3D motion analysis and analyzed with mixed-method ANOVAs (group, walking condition). Results: The stroke group demonstrated greater reductions in speed, step length and cadence and a greater increase in double-support time during BW compared to FW (p < .01). Compared to FW, the post-stroke group demonstrated greater reductions in hip extension and knee flexion during BW (p < .05). The control group demonstrated decreased plantarflexion and increased dorsiflexion during BW, but these increases were attenuated in the post-stroke group (p < .05). Conclusions: Assessment of BW can unmask post-stroke walking impairments not detected during typical FW. BW impairments may contribute to the mobility difficulties reported by adults post-stroke. Therefore, BW should be assessed when determining readiness for home and community ambulation.


Backward walking; stroke rehabilitation; walking adaptability

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