To evaluate the effect and feasibility of a 10-week group aquatic trainingprogramme on gait efficiency in adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP). The secondary purpose was to determine the exercise intensity during aquatic training in a heterogeneous group of adolescents with CP and to investigate the impact of the training programme on the musculoskeletal system.
Twelve ambulatory adolescents with spastic CP were recruited. They participated in 20 aquatic training sessions (45 min twice a week). Three physical therapists and a sports teacher supervised the training sessions. Participants wore a heart rate monitor to assess sessions' intensity and a floatation device as appropriate. The primary outcome measure was gait efficiency as measured by the gait energy expenditure index (EEI). The secondary measures were (1) gait spatiotemporal parameters, (2) maximal isometric knee strength and (3) gross motor function.
Ten adolescents completed the training programme. No adverse effect was reported. Average exercise intensity was mild to moderate for more than half of the trainingsession. A significant reduction of the EEI and the heart rate during walking was observed following the training programme. No significant change was observed on secondary outcome measures.
Group aquatic training increases gait efficiency in adolescents with CP. This improvement is related to systemic cardiorespiratory adaptations. Group aquatic trainingprogramme is feasible in adolescents presenting CP at different levels of severity.