BackgroundMuscle contractures are developing during childhood and may cause extensive problems in gait and every day functioning in children with cerebral palsy (CP). The aim of the present study was to evaluate how the popliteal angle (PA) and hamstrings spasticity change during childhood in walking children with spastic bilateral CP.
MethodsThe present study was a longitudinal register-based cohort study including 419 children (1–15 years of age) with spastic bilateral CP, gross motor function classification system (GMFCS) level I, II and III included in the Norwegian CP Follow-up Program (CPOP). From 2006 to 2018 a total of 2193 tests were performed. The children were tested by trained physiotherapists yearly or every second year, depending on GMFCS level and age. The PA and the hamstrings spasticity (Modified Ashworth scale (MAS)) were measured at every time point. Both legs were included in the analysis.
ResultsThere was an increase in PA with age for all three GMFCS levels with significant differences between the levels from 1 up to 8 years of age. At the age of 10 years there was no significant difference between GMFCS level II and III. At the age of 14 years all three GMFCS levels had a mean PA above 40° and there were no significant differences between the groups. The hamstrings spasticity scores for all the three GMFCS levels were at the lower end of the MAS (mean < 1+), however they were significantly different from each other until 8 years of age. The spasticity increased the first four years in all three GMFCS levels, thereafter the level I and II slightly increased, and level III slightly decreased, until the age of 15 years.
ConclusionThe present study showed an increasing PA during childhood. There were significantly different PAs between GMFCS level I, II and III up to 8 years of age. At the age of 14 years all levels showed a PA above 40°. The spasticity increased up to 4 years of age, but all the spasticity scores were at the lower end of the MAS during childhood.
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