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Free-living gait does not differentiate chronic mTBI patients compared to healthy controls

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posted on 21.06.2022, 06:23 authored by Dylan Powell, Alan Godfrey, Lucy ParringtonLucy Parrington, Kody R Campbell, Laurie A King, Sam Stuart
BACKGROUND: Physical function remains a crucial component of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) assessment and recovery. Traditional approaches to assess mTBI lack sensitivity to detect subtle deficits post-injury, which can impact a patient's quality of life, daily function and can lead to chronic issues. Inertial measurement units (IMU) provide an opportunity for objective assessment of physical function and can be used in any environment. A single waist worn IMU has the potential to provide broad/macro quantity characteristics to estimate gait mobility, as well as more high-resolution micro spatial or temporal gait characteristics (herein, we refer to these as measures of quality). Our recent work showed that quantity measures of mobility were less sensitive than measures of turning quality when comparing the free-living physical function of chronic mTBI patients and healthy controls. However, no studies have examined whether measures of gait quality in free-living conditions can differentiate chronic mTBI patients and healthy controls. This study aimed to determine whether measures of free-living gait quality can differentiate chronic mTBI patients from controls. METHODS: Thirty-two patients with chronic self-reported balance symptoms after mTBI (age: 40.88 ± 11.78 years, median days post-injury: 440.68 days) and 23 healthy controls (age: 48.56 ± 22.56 years) were assessed for ~ 7 days using a single IMU at the waist on a belt. Free-living gait quality metrics were evaluated for chronic mTBI patients and controls using multi-variate analysis. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) and Area Under the Curve (AUC) analysis were used to determine outcome sensitivity to chronic mTBI. RESULTS: Free-living gait quality metrics were not different between chronic mTBI patients and controls (all p > 0.05) whilst controlling for age and sex. ROC and AUC analysis showed stride length (0.63) was the most sensitive measure for differentiating chronic mTBI patients from controls. CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that gait quality metrics determined through a free-living assessment were not significantly different between chronic mTBI patients and controls. These results suggest that measures of free-living gait quality were not impaired in our chronic mTBI patients, and/or, that the metrics chosen were not sensitive enough to detect subtle impairments in our sample.


This work was supported by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs under Award No. W81XWH-15-1-0620. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense. D Powell is supported by a Northumbria University doctoral research programme and the Private Physiotherapy Education Foundation (PI Powell: PPEF#349, RPJ03732) and (PI Stuart PPEF#368). Dr Stuart is supported by research funding from the Parkinson's Foundation via a post-doctoral fellowship and clinical research award (PF-FBS-1898, PF-CRA-2073).


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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation





Article Number





Springer Nature



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