Dobkin & Duncan. Should Body Weight-Supported Treadmill Training and Robotic-Assistive Steppers for Locomotor Training Trot Back to the Starting Gate? Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2012 Mar 12.
Body weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT) and robotic-assisted step training (RAST) have not, so far, led to better outcomes than a comparable dose of progressive over-ground training (OGT) for disabled persons with MS. The conceptual bases for these promising rehabilitation interventions had once seemed quite plausible, but the results of well-designed, randomized clinical trials have been disappointing. This paper reassess the underpinning concepts for BWSTT and RAST, which were derived from mammalian studies of treadmill-induced hind-limb stepping associated with central pattern generation (cortex) after low thoracic spinal cord transection, as well as human studies of the triple crown icons of task-oriented locomotor training, massed practice, and activity-induced neuroplasticity. The authors consider where theory and practice may have fallen short in the pilot studies that aimed to produce thoroughbred interventions. Based on these shortcomings, the authors move forward with recommendations for the future development of workhorse interventions for walking. In the absence of evidence for physical therapists to employ these strategies, however, BWSTT and RAST should not be provided routinely to disabled, vulnerable persons in place of OGT outside of a scientifically conducted efficacy trial.