Why is it harder to cross obstacles when you have Parkinson’s disease?

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Author: Saskia MairPublished: 15 April 2021

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Man stepping over yellow mini banana hurdles on a field

A team of researchers at São Paulo State University, Brazil, have offered insights on why people with Parkinson’s disease can find it more difficult to cross obstacles than those without the condition.

As part of the study, 13 people with Parkinson’s disease and 11 controls stepped over an obstacle 15 times, and scientists measured the distance between the foot and the obstacles during the step. They found that step-length synergy – the ability of the musculoskeletal system to adapt movement when encountering an obstacle – was 53% lower in people with the condition.

“There are patients in our exercise group who fall three or four times a week,” said Fabio Augusto Barbieri, one of the study authors. “It’s important to understand how these patients’ gait and locomotion adapt while crossing obstacles so that we can improve step-length synergy.”


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