A group of researchers from the Netherlands conducted a study aimed at quantifying the capacity of individuals with poststroke foot drop to restore steady gait after a step modification. They found that persons with poststroke foot drop using an AFO have reduced gait adaptability, as evidenced by lower success rates of obstacle avoidance as well as by an impaired capacity to restore steady gait after crossing an obstacle. The results were published February 20 online before print in the journal Physical Therapy.
Nineteen persons more than six months poststroke (age 55.0±10.1 years) and 20 abled-bodied persons of similar age (54.6±12.0 years) participated in this cross-sectional, observational study. Participants were instructed to avoid obstacles that were suddenly released in front of the paretic leg (stroke group) or left leg (control group) while walking on a treadmill. Outcomes were success rates of obstacle avoidance as well as post-crossing step length, step time, hip flexion angle at foot strike, and peak hip extension of the steps measured within ten seconds following obstacle release.
Success rates of obstacle avoidance were lower for persons poststroke. Moreover, their first post-crossing step length and time (i.e., the non-paretic step) deviated more from steady gait than those of persons in the control group (i.e., the right step), with lower values for persons poststroke. Similar deviations were observed for post-crossing hip flexion and extension excursions.