courtesy of the Motion Analysis Lab
walks in the Motion Lab, outfitted with reflective markers
that allow a biomechanics instrument to collect data for evaluating
a cerebral palsy gait.
motion lab yields new data on muscle function
is an ability most people take for granted, but it is a complex
action that medical researchers are only beginning to understand.
At U.Va.'s Motion Analysis and Motor Performance Laboratory, health
care personnel are helping children with cerebral palsy improve
their walking skills, using new computerized imaging technology,
and gaining insights into other muscle problems.
the first time, we have the technology to measure the walking
patterns of patients with cerebral palsy and musculoskeletal disorders,"
said Dr. Mark Abel, pediatric orthopedic surgeon and medical director
of the motion analysis lab, housed at the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation
Center. The information from the technology aids the physicians
and therapists in refining patient treatments, including surgery,
braces and physical therapy.
The U.Va. Motion Analysis Lab is one of the best-equipped centers
of its kind in the United States, Abel said. Its computers record
a patient's walking pattern through six high-speed video cameras.
Floor-mounted force plates measure pressure from different parts
of the foot, and reflective markers hooked to electrodes are taped
to the patient. The resulting computer screen image looks like
a three-dimensional skeleton walking on graph paper.
lab can produce a picture using all the factors that make each
person's walking pattern unique, including the angles, pressure
and speed of limbs," Abel said.
lab also measures muscle strength. Lab co-director and physical
therapist Diane Damiano has developed individualized muscle strengthening
programs for cerebral palsy patients based on information from
the lab's special equipment. Damiano's strengthening program is
now included in fitness materials she produced with the United
Cerebral Palsy Association and the Centers for Disease Control
decades therapists never strengthened children with spastic muscles
because they believed the muscles would get stiffer," Damiano
said. "But we challenged that and did two research studies
that showed muscle strengthening improves motor function among
children with cerebral palsy to the same degree as surgery."
U.Va. studies funded by the National Institutes of Health are
focusing on cerebral palsy patients in the motion laboratory.
The cerebral palsy studies are also giving U.Va. researchers insights
into muscle problems in healthy adults. One adult study is investigating
low back pain among loading dock workers.
as children with cerebral palsy have muscle spasms and twitches,
the same is true of people with low back pain," Abel said.
"If we can measure how the spinal vertebrae and back muscles
work and why they wear down, a spine therapist will be able to
target those areas better."
study is investigating muscle fatigue in women athletes. Abel
said the muscle measurement techniques for this study grew out
of the lab's research on muscle capacity in children with cerebral