Maintaining healthy joints with overweight

Research project and physiotherapeutic training programme for overweight children and adolescents

Overweight can harm joints and increases the risk of developing early arthrosis of joints, also known as abrasion of joints. In the project "Children’s KNEEs“, the study programme Physiotherapy at the St. Pölten UAS researches the effects of overweight on the joints of children and adolescents, and creates and evaluates a physiotherapeutic training programme from a clinical and biomechanical perspective.

Increasing problem with overweight

About 17 percent of the children in Austria are overweight, 7 percent suffer from adiposity – and there is a rising tendency. Weight strains bones and joints with every step taken and therefore can lead to joint problems. Studies have found a strong correlation between overweight and negative effects on biomechanical processes when moving.

Mechanisms of the musculoskeletal system

In the study “Children’s KNEEs“, the study programme Physiotherapy at the St. Pölten UAS analyses the altered biomechanical processes in the movement of overweight children and adolescents. Here, the method of “Motion Capturing“, which is normally applied in productions of animated films, is used: movements of individual body segments in the 3-dimensional space are recorded and analysed with this method.

“Scientific researches have shown that specific training programmes for the improvement of neuromuscular control and muscular strength can counteract non-physiological additional load. However, the biomechanical mechanisms included are still relatively unclear“, explains the head of project Brian Horsak, sport scientist and UAS lecturer at the Health Department of the St. Pölten UAS.

Specific training programme

“There is a huge number of guiding principles for training programmes promising enhanced muscle formation and the improvement of neuromuscular control, but most programmes are not specifically targeted at overweight children and teenagers”, says UAS lecturer Barbara Wondrasch. She is physiotherapist and detected the importance of this issue in the course of writing her dissertation. In the project “Children’s KNEEs“, she is in charge of its clinical relevance and the training programme.

Gait analysis in 3D

About 50 overweight children and adolescents aged 10 to 18 are tested. The training programme lasts 12 weeks and contains a combination of neuromuscular and strengthening exercises for the musculature of hip and thighs.

During the study a biomechanical 3D gait analysis is made at the beginning and end of the training programme. As a result, differences in biomechanical processes before and after the training can be identified and analysed.

“Children‘s KNEEs Study“

The project “Children‘s KNEEs Study” is supported by the Federal State of Lower Austria in the framework of the Life-Science-Calls of the NÖ Forschungs- und Bildunges.m.b.H. (NFB). Partners in the project are the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Orthopaedics of the Danube University Krems, the University Clinic of Paediatrics at AKH Wien and the department of Sport Science at the University of Vienna.

Publication on the topic

Horsak et al., Trials (2015), 16:586. The effects of a strength and neuromuscular exercise programme for the lower extremity on knee load, pain and function in obese children and adolescents: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial.

DOI 10.1186/s13063-015-1091-5

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