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Oxford Gait Laboratory

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Research and development

Page updated August 2015

Research conducted at the Oxford Gait Laboratory incorporates staff from the clinical team, as well as members of the University of Oxford including Engineering Science and the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Science.

The overall aim is to cover basic science, as well as applied clinical research. Key areas that form the focus of our research are outlined below.

1. Cerebral palsy

The clinical service provided by the Oxford Gait Laboratory has historically been dominated by assessing children with cerebral palsy. Treating these children with single-stage, multi-level surgery is now well established, with accepted improvements in walking patterns. However, this may come at the cost of reduction in muscle strength and function. The aim of research conducted in this area is to investigate the extent and reasons for this deficit, and to establish methods for minimising strength and function loss. The effect of multi-level surgery on quality of life and patient reported outcome measures is also being investigated.

In addition, methods for customising data collection and modelling for this population are being investigated. Traditional methods of data collection (straight, level walking) and generic models may not provide adequate information for making treatment decisions. Alternative data collection techniques (e.g. turning corners) and modelling modifications (incorporating specific anatomy and muscle lengths) are currently being explored.

2. Upper body motion analysis

The current, primary aim of this research is to develop and establish the accuracy and reliability of a useful model for the upper body - including trunk and upper limbs. In the first instance, this will be applied to children with Hemiplegia to assess the outcomes of upper limb, multi-level surgery.=

In the longer term, the goal is to quantify the range of motion required by the dominant and non-dominant limbs, in order to perform everyday tasks. This information will be used to establish targets for treatment of the upper limbs in cerebral palsy.

In addition, two separate trunk models are being established. The first is aimed at assessing overall trunk motion during gait, while the second is intended to measure shape of the spine for postural assessment. The relationship between arm function and cosmesis with quality of life is also being investigated.

3. Foot and Ankle Biomechanics

Research in this area is aimed at modelling the foot accurately, in order to facilitate understanding of the function of the foot during gait. This covers both unimpaired function, as well as those with foot deformity, and also injury to the foot and ankle. Particular pathologies of interest include:

  • clubfoot
  • flexible flat foot
  • foot deformity resulting from cerebral palsy
  • idiopathic toe walkers.

Current research focuses on the relationship between the degree of physical deformity, and the impact on quality of life, in order to improve treatment decision-making.

The joints of the lower limbs are mechanically inter-linked, particularly when loaded. There is a mounting body of evidence that suggests the morphology and kinematics of the foot and ankle may play an important role in the development of some knee and hip pathologies. For example, it has been suggested that prolonged pronation may be a contributing factor to the development of patello-femoral pain syndrome. We are interested in elucidating these relationships, and predicting effects of deformity on other joints.