Stopping during walking, a dynamic motor task frequent in everyday life, is very challenging for ataxic patients, as it reduces their gait stability and increases the incidence of falls. This study was conducted to analyse the biomechanical characteristics of upper and lower body segments during abrupt stopping in ataxic patients in order to identify possible strategies used to counteract the instability in the sagittal and frontal plane. Twelve patients with primary degenerative cerebellar ataxia and 12 age- and sex-matched healthy subjects were studied. Time–distance parameters, dynamic stability of the centre of mass, upper body measures and lower joint kinematic and kinetic parameters were analysed. The results indicate that ataxic patients have a great difficulty in stopping abruptly during walking and adopt a multi-step stopping strategy, occasionally with feet parallel, to compensate for their inability to coordinate the upper body and to generate a well-coordinated lower limb joint flexor–extensor pattern and appropriate braking forces for progressively decelerating the progression of the body in the sagittal plane. A specific rehabilitation treatment designed to improve the ability of ataxic patients to transform unplanned stopping into planned stopping, to coordinate upper body and to execute an effective flexion–extension pattern of the hip and knee joints may be useful in these patients in order to improve their stopping performance and prevent falls.
- Cerebellar ataxia
- Gait termination