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Early Treadmill Practice in Infants Born With Myelomeningocele

A Pilot Study

Lee, Do Kyeong, PhD; Sansom, Jennifer K., PT, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PEP.0000000000000554

Purpose: To determine the feasibility of an early treadmill training program for infants with myelomeningocele (MMC) and to measure changes in overt infant motor development and control, including mechanisms underlying the overt changes.

Methods: Ten infants with MMC were initially enrolled: 8 infants completed 12 consecutive months of training, and 2 completed 6 months of training. Training consisted primarily of home-based, parent-administered treadmill stepping practice 5 days per week, 10 minutes per day starting within 6 months postbirth. We measured motor milestones, treadmill steps, spinal-level reflexes, and body composition.

Results: Infants showed earlier acquisition of gross motor skills than previously reported. The number of alternating steps performed increased, indicating more complex neuromotor control and strength. Integrity of monosynaptic pathways and body composition were improved after controlling for chronological age.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the feasibility of using early, home-based treadmill training for infants with MMC starting within 6 months postbirth.

The purposes of this study were to determine the feasibility of an early treadmill training program for infants with MMC, acquisition of gross motor skills, quality of steps, and integrity of peripheral pathways.

Department of Kinesiology (Dr Lee), California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, California; Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy (Dr Sansom), School of Rehabilitation and Medical Sciences, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Correspondence: Do Kyeong Lee, PhD, Department of Kinesiology, California State University Fullerton, 800 N State College Blvd, Fullerton, CA 92831 (

At the time data for this study was collected, Do Kyeong Lee was a graduate student at School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Grant Support: This study was supported by grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation (1747.11).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2019 Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy of the American Physical Therapy Association