Populations with potential damage to somatosensory, vestibular, and visual systems or poor motor control are often studied during gait initiation. Aquatic activity has shown to benefit the functional capacity of incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI) patients. The present study aimed to evaluate gait initiation in iSCI patients using an easy-to-use protocol employing four wearable inertial sensors. Temporal and acceleration-based anticipatory postural adjustment measures were computed and compared between dry-land and water immersion conditions in 10 iSCI patients. In the aquatic condition, an increased first step duration (median value of 1.44 s vs. 0.70 s in dry-land conditions) and decreased root mean squared accelerations for the upper trunk (0.39 m/s2 vs. 0.72 m/s2 in dry-land conditions) and lower trunk (0.41 m/s2 vs. 0.85 m/s2 in dry-land conditions) were found in the medio-lateral and antero-posterior direction, respectively. The estimation of these parameters, routinely during a therapy session, can provide important information regarding different control strategies adopted in different environments.
anticipatory postural adjustment; inertial measurement unit (IMU); wearable sensors; water activity; first step