J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2018 May 29;15(1):44. doi: 10.1186/s12984-018-0389-4.
Trainer in a pocket - proof-of-concept of mobile, real-time, foot kinematics feedback for gait pattern normalization in individuals after stroke, incomplete spinal cord injury and elderly patients.
Schlie?mann D1, Nisser M2, Schuld C1, Gladow T2, Derlien S2, Heutehaus L1, Weidner N1, Smolenski U2, Rupp R3.
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Walking disabilities negatively affect inclusion in society and quality of life and increase the risk for secondary complications. It has been shown that external feedback applied by therapists and/or robotic training devices enables individuals with gait abnormalities to consciously normalize their gait pattern. However, little is known about the effects of a technically-assisted over ground feedback therapy. The aim of this study was to assess whether automatic real-time feedback provided by a shoe-mounted inertial-sensor-based gait therapy system is feasible in individuals with gait impairments after incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI), stroke and in the elderly.

In a non-controlled proof-of-concept study, feedback by tablet computer-generated verbalized instructions was given to individuals with iSCI, stroke and old age for normalization of an individually selected gait parameter (stride length, stance or swing duration, or foot-to-ground angle). The training phase consisted of 3 consecutive visits. Four weeks post training a follow-up visit was performed. Visits started with an initial gait analysis (iGA) without feedback, followed by 5 feedback training sessions of 2-3 min and a gait analysis at the end. A universal evaluation and FB scheme based on equidistant levels of deviations from the mean normal value (1 level = 1 standard deviation (SD) of the physiological reference for the feedback parameter) was used for assessment of gait quality as well as for automated adaptation of training difficulty. Overall changes in level over iGAs were detected using a Friedman's Test. Post-hoc testing was achieved with paired Wilcoxon Tests. The users' satisfaction was assessed by a customized questionnaire.

Fifteen individuals with iSCI, 11 after stroke and 15 elderly completed the training. The average level at iGA significantly decreased over the visits in all groups (Friedman's test, p < 0.0001), with the biggest decrease between the first and second training visit (4.78 ? 2.84 to 3.02 ? 2.43, p < 0.0001, paired Wilcoxon test). Overall, users rated the system's usability and its therapeutic effect as positive.

Mobile, real-time, verbalized feedback is feasible and results in a normalization of the feedback gait parameter. The results form a first basis for using real-time feedback in task-specific motor rehabilitation programs.