OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether a figure-of-8-shaped walking test can estimate various domains of walking in subjects with incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) better than the 10-meter walk test (10MWT), and to explore similarities and differences between the 2 tests and between subjects with iSCI and age-matched, healthy controls.
DESIGN: Case-control study.
SETTING: Spinal cord injury center of a university hospital.
PARTICIPANTS: A convenience sample of subjects with iSCI (n=15; mean age, 50y; 40% women; neurologic level from C3 to L5; median time since injury, 5mo) was compared with an age-matched control group (47% women).
INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The figure-of-8 test (FET) included 6 conditions to test the subjects' ability to adapt their gait to several circumstances. These conditions covered normal and maximal walking speed, constrained vision, obstacles, foamed soles, and a dual task. Additionally, subjects were tested for lower extremity muscle strength, gait capacity (10MWT) and balance, independence, and fear of falling.
RESULTS: (1) Preferred straight-walking speed correlated with the different FET conditions in both groups; (2) if normalized to preferred straight-walking speed, FET conditions showed significant differences between both groups; (3) if normalized to preferred curve-walking speed, these differences seemed to disappear; and (4) the 10MWT appeared superior to the different conditions of the FET in estimating various walking-related functions.
CONCLUSIONS: Subjects with iSCI seem to have difficulties with curve walking compared with straight walking. We therefore recommend the implementation of curve walking into rehabilitation training programs. However, the FET did not provide a better estimate of functional ambulation performance after an iSCI compared with the 10MWT.