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International Journal of Pediatrics
Volume 2012, Article ID 504387, 11 pages
Research Article

Evaluation of Functional Electrical Stimulation to Assist Cycling in Four Adolescents with Spastic Cerebral Palsy

1Interdisciplinary Program in Biomechanics and Movement Science, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716, USA
2Biomechanics Division, ARCCA Inc., Penns Park, PA 18943, USA
3Department of Physical Therapy, University of Delaware, Newark, 301 McKinly Laboratory, DE 19716, USA
4Research Department, Shriners Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA

Received 2 November 2011; Revised 12 January 2012; Accepted 13 February 2012

Academic Editor: Maria A. Fragala-Pinkham

Copyright © 2012 Ann Tokay Harrington et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Introduction. Adolescents with cerebral palsy (CP) often have difficulty participating in exercise at intensities necessary to improve cardiovascular fitness. Functional electrical stimulation- (FES-) assisted cycling is proposed as a form of exercise for adolescents with CP. The aims of this paper were to adapt methods and assess the feasibility of applying FES cycling technology in adolescents with CP, determine methods of performing cycling tests in adolescents with CP, and evaluate the immediate effects of FES assistance on cycling performance. Materials/Methods. Four participants (12–14 years old; GMFCS levels III-IV) participated in a case-based pilot study of FES-assisted cycling in which bilateral quadriceps muscles were activated using surface electrodes. Cycling cadence, power output, and heart rate were collected. Results. FES-assisted cycling was well tolerated (n=4) and cases are presented demonstrating increased cadence (2–43 rpm), power output (19–70%), and heart rates (4-5%) and decreased variability (8–13%) in cycling performance when FES was applied, compared to volitional cycling without FES assistance. Some participants (n=2) required the use of an auxiliary hub motor for assistance. Conclusions. FES-assisted cycling is feasible for individuals with CP and may lead to immediate improvements in cycling performance. Future work will examine the potential for long-term fitness gains using this intervention.