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Brently Miller is a high school senior who is very passionate about basketball.  He knows the statistics of almost every college player in the country.  He is a member of his high school varsity basketball team.  Brently, however, spends more time coaching his twin brother from the bench than actually playing.  He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) at about one year of age.  The CP causes Brently’s muscles to be very tight, and he has contractures and difficulty walking.  Brently gets A’s and B’s in school and he works extremely hard to overcome his physical limitations.  It may take Brently 30 minutes or more to make his bed, but he makes it every morning.  He also regularly lifts weights, and the strength he is gaining helps him walk better and be able to shoot with near-perfect form.

A couple of weeks ago, Brently’s coach had him come off the bench and play during the fourth quarter.  He had already led the team out of the locker room, but Brently had never played in a game before.  Suddenly, Brently got to put his shooting skills to the test.  He dribbled down the floor and scored from the key.  A few days later, Brently was sent into another game after his teammates missed 22 free throws in a row.  Brently got fouled a made his free throw shot, with the crowd cheering.  Brently is getting ready for college – he says that his weight lifting regimen is helping him gain the strength he needs for the College and Career school in Sabine Parish.

STRENGTH TRAINING CAN IMPROVE STRENGTH AND HELP CHILDREN WITH CP BE ABLE TO WALK

Children who have cerebral palsy are often prescribed strength training.  Many studies have found a positive correlation between muscle strength and walking ability.  A recent study, published in October, 2018, found that strength training can decrease muscle weakness and improve the walking ability of kids with cerebral palsy.  A specific finding of this study was that a progressive strength training program can result in gains in both isometric and dynamic strength in children with CP.  The study’s exercise program, which combined exercises for the hip flexors and extensors, knee extensors, and ankle plantar flexors, led to significant increases in the joint strength of all the targeted muscles.  In addition, simulations performed in a very small group of children with CP revealed that strength training improved dynamic muscle forces during walking, with a greater effect in hip muscles.  The sample size for this study was small (nine children); however, the researchers believe that “the use of progressive strength training combined with task specific training has the potential to address weakness and improve walking ability for children with CP.”  Furthermore, “[d]espite being overlooked, the hip abductors play an important role in stability during gait, and should be considered in future strength training protocols.”

In a 2009 article published in the Journal of Child Neurology entitled “Rehabilitative Therapies in Cerebral Palsy: The Good, the Not as Good, and the Possible” the authors found that strength training was a “good” type of therapy.  In fact, the use of strength training flourished once it was safely shown that the effort associated with resistance training did not seem to exacerbate spasticity, which had been a long held clinical principle.  Indeed, the general consensus across numerous studies is that strength can be predictably increased through a well-designed short-term program.  Training for only a few weeks may not be enough to produce a significant change in activity in kids with CP – strength training likely needs to be done on a regular basis to retain the benefits.

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