Randomized Controlled Trial of Early Intensive Leg Exercise to Improve Walking in Children With Diplegia


University of Alberta




Spastic Diplegia
Periventricular Leukomalacia


Behavioral: Intensive exercise

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


This is a randomized controlled trial, comparing 3 months of intensive leg exercise to standard physiotherapy care for the improvement of gross motor function in young children with spastic diplegia.

Full description

Children born prematurely are at risk of brain injury that can result in cerebral palsy, most often affecting both legs. Current treatment is largely passive, including leg braces, repeated injection of a paralyzing agent (botulinum toxin) in muscles that are abnormally active, and surgery as deformities occur. Active, physical therapy for weak muscles is infrequent, occurring twice a month or less. Yet, recent work in mammals show that early brain injury can be alleviated by intensive exercise therapy, but only while the animal is very young. Building on our success with early, intensive therapy for children with perinatal stroke, we will apply intensive therapy for the legs in children with cerebral palsy involving both legs. Children (8 mo - 3 yr old) will be randomly assigned to start treatment immediately or delay treatment for 6 months. The delay period controls for improvement without treatment. The children in the Delay Group will have the option to receive the same treatment after the delay period. The therapy will be guided by physical therapists, and centered on play. Measures will be taken before, during and after the delay and treatment periods. Measures will include clinical scores of motor development, proficiency of walking, participation at home, and physiological measures of motor and sensory function. All children will be followed until they turn 4 yr old, to determine if there are long term benefits. The cost-effectiveness of the intervention will be evaluated by a health economist. We anticipate that early intensive exercise will improve mobility, facilitate earlier and better walking, and that the effects will be enduring.


60 estimated patients




8 to 36 months old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Bilateral motor impairment of the lower extremities
  • Periventricular white matter injury from encephalopathy of prematurity
  • Able to stand with some support

Exclusion criteria

  • Substantial upper extremity involvement - Manual Abilities Classification System (MACS) Level ≥3
  • Uncontrolled epilepsy or infantile spasms in the past 6 months
  • Cardiovascular or musculoskeletal complications that preclude participation in intensive exercise
  • Botulinum toxin-A (BTX-A) injections in the legs in the last 6 months

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

60 participants in 2 patient groups

Immediate training group
Experimental group
Children will participate in intensive exercise intervention for 3 months and will be followed for 9 months following the intervention
Behavioral: Intensive exercise
Delay training group
No Intervention group
Children will be assessed for 6 months with no intervention. After the 6 month period children will be given the same intervention as the immediate group and followed for 3 months after the intervention.

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Donna Livingstone, BScPT

Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

Clinical trials

Find clinical trialsTrials by location


© Copyright 2024 Veeva Systems