Effects of progressive functional ankle exercises in spastic cerebral palsy, plantarflexors versus dorsiflexors: a randomized trial


TURKISH JOURNAL OF MEDICAL SCIENCES, vol.53, no.5, pp.1166-1177, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 53 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.55730/1300-0144.5682
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, CAB Abstracts, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.1166-1177
  • Gazi University Affiliated: Yes


Background/aim: Children with cerebral palsy (CP), even those who have very mild impairment, have lower muscle strength than their typically developing peers. The ankle dorsiflexors (DFs) and plantarflexors (PFs) of children with CP are especially weak. Weakness in the ankle muscles causes problems in functional skills, mobility, and balance in spastic CP (SCP). The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of progressive functional exercises (PFEs) on the DF, PF, or dorsi-plantar flexor (DPF) muscles in children with SCP, specifically, the functional mobility, balance, and maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), and compare the effects of strengthening these muscles individually or combined.Materials and methods: This randomized trial was conducted between December 1st, 2018, and May 15th, 2019, at Gazi University, Department of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation. Randomly assigned into groups were 27 independently ambulant patients with unilateral/bilateral SCP, where PFEs were applied to the DF, PF, or DPF muscles. Muscle tone, balance, and functional mobility were assessed. The MVC was evaluated by surface electromyography. PFEs were performed 4 times a week, for 6 weeks.Results: The spasticity of the PF muscles decreased in all of the groups. PFE of the DF muscles led to an increase in ankle joint range of motion (ROM) and improved functional mobility (p < 0.05). PFE of the PF muscles resulted in improvements in balance and functional mobility (p < 0.05). PFE of the DPF muscles brought about improvements in balance but not in functional mobility (p < 0.05). No significant difference in the MVC was observed in any of the groups (p > 0.05).Conclusion: Gains are obtained according to the function of a muscle group. By training the DF muscles, it is possible to improve function and ROM. Furthermore, training the PF muscles led to improvements in balance and functional mobility, indicating that it is possible to bring about positive changes in spastic muscles. This study showed that muscle groups must be exercised according to the intended goal.