E. Viloria, K. Witzke FACSM

Oregon State University- Cascades, Bend, OR

Hippotherapy (physical therapy on horseback) has been previously shown to promote gross motor skills, trunk control, and muscle strength in patients with spastic cerebral palsy. PURPOSE: This study was designed to observe the effects of hippotherapy for a child with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy over 12 weeks. METHODS: The participant was a single, 9 year-old female, who participated in hippotherapy for the last 6 years at the same facility. A single hippotherapy session consisted of 30 minutes on horseback once every two weeks. The pretest was conducted before the subject mounted and then repeated at the 6 and 12-week marks post-therapy session. Outcomes were observed and recorded using the Gross Motor Function Measure-66 (GMFM-66), which is an evaluative measure specific to quantifying change in the gross motor abilities of children with cerebral palsy. Specific items were selected based on the patient’s individual goals, from the sitting (25, 26, 27, 34), kneeling (38, 39, 40, 48), and standing (53, 56) dimensions and scored objectively on a scale from 0-3 for a total score out of 30 possible points. RESULTS: For the sitting condition, the participant scored 9, 10, and 10 out of a possible 12 points at week 0, 6, and 12, respectively. For the kneeling condition, the participant scored 5, 4, and 4 out of a possible 12 points at weeks 0, 6, and 12. For the standing condition, the participant scored 1, 1, and 3 out of 6 possible points at weeks 0, 6, and 12, respectively. The total score for the pretest was 15 with an improvement to 17 out of 30 by week 12 (6.7% overall improvement). CONCLUSION: According to the GMFM-66 manual, these results indicate a modest positive improvement in the participant’s gross motor function following 12 weeks of hippotherapy. Although these results do not allow us to conclude that hippotherapy is likely to produce clinically significant improvements in gross motor function in other children, these results support other studies showing the potential benefits of hippotherapy for those with cerebral palsy.

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