Cerebral palsy is the most common cause of child motor dysfunction, often resulting in muscle weakness, abnormal muscle activity, and ataxia (a degenerative disease that impacts the nervous system). Some children who suffer from this condition are either unable to walk or must receive assistance when walking.
Hope is on the horizon
According to European research and innovation magazine Horizon, new developments in cerebral palsy therapy may offer hope. Dr. Nadia Dominici, a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, began studying the stepping reflexes in newborn babies in a project dubbed Learn2Walk – finding that the muscle activation needed for walking occurs in specific patterns.
Using a combination of leg sensors and devices to monitor muscle and brain activity, Dominici was able to track brain development as a child prepares to walk. In addition, these measurements contrast the progress of children with cerebral palsy with those without it in order to identify developmental patterns and plan therapies.
As the study continues, researchers will examine how therapies impact muscular and brain activity in children with cerebral palsy. By doing so, new and effective treatment options may be discovered that may help young children on the neural and physical level.
How video games may help address balance issues
Children with cerebral palsy often experience poor balance control. Dr. Pieter Meyns, assistant biomechanics professor at Hasselt University in Belgium, has investigated video games as a possible method for improving balance through another project called CP-RehOP. Using the Microsoft Xbox Kinect gaming system, Meyns administered a six-week training program to 21 children ages 8-16 (12 of which had cerebral palsy). This involved playing football, tennis and bowling games in 30-minute sessions five times per week using the gaming console that responds to bodily movements.
“The games challenge the user’s balance in different ways: in football, for example, they had to stand on one leg and swing the other leg, while bowling and tennis require a different set of actions and balance reactions,” said Meyns.
The program discovered that balance issues experienced by children with cerebral palsy aren’t caused by single factors but are multi-faceted. The group of children received brain scans before and after the training program. For some children, progress was made in at least one measure of balance, but there was no evidence of improvement in other measures of balance.
“Even children with similar symptoms might not have the same type of balance disorder," Meyns said. “What we need is big data from a much larger study to investigate the link between certain types of CP, balance problems and opportunities for training.”
To fully address this debilitating condition, more research must be done. These new developments are stepping stones that could usher in new methods of early intervention and therapy.
It’s critical that doctors examine the risk factors in pregnant women early on in order to prevent brain damage in newborns, but some doctors fail to do so. When this happens, it’s up to medical professionals to take immediate action in order to prevent such a condition from worsening or manifesting in the first place.
At Goldberg & Schulkin Law Offices, we have seen, first-hand, the impact that cerebral palsy has on the lives of children. We hope that one day researchers will devise intervention strategies that address all dimensions of cerebral palsy.
In the meantime, if your child has developed this condition due to the negligent actions of hospital personnel, you may be eligible for a birth injury lawsuit. To learn how we can help, contact our law office today.