NIH grant targets improved fitness in children with cerebral palsy
A UD researcher is studying the use of functional electrical stimulation to improve fitness and strength in children with cerebral palsy.
Samuel Lee

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11:52 a.m., Oct. 20, 2010----Samuel Lee, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Delaware, has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the use of functional electrical stimulation (FES) to improve fitness and strength in children with cerebral palsy.

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The five-year $2.5 million grant was awarded through NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a non-progressive developmental disorder of the brain that results in reduced strength, affecting functional abilities and limiting activity levels.

A leading health concern in the U.S., lack of activity is particularly critical for individuals with CP, as they have fewer options for exercise than other children. The problem worsens as they mature and fail to gain muscle strength commensurate with gains in body weight and height.

While stationary cycling is often used as a method of exercise for individuals who lack the balance, strength and coordination to walk efficiently, children with CP have impaired biomechanics that limit their cycling output.

To address this, Lee proposes to use FES, which applies controlled amounts of electric current to muscles to make them contract in a nearly normal manner.

His goal is to demonstrate the ability of FES assistance to produce higher heart rates, power output and cadences during cycling than children with CP are able to achieve on their own.

“Our hope is that with improved ability, children and adolescents with CP will be motivated to adopt cycling as a long-term activity to maintain health and maximize functional ability as they age,” Lee says.

Lee, who earned his doctorate at UD in 1999, is also a research associate at Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

Article by Diane Kukich

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