University of Arizona Study on Children with Cerebral Palsy Seeks Participants
Researchers at the University of Arizona Steele Memorial Children's Research Center are seeking participants for a study to evaluate the effectiveness of "horse therapy" for young children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP). The study is funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
Called hippotherapy, this type of therapy has been used for decades to help children with CP, but little objective research has been conducted to document the results.
"Pediatricians, therapists and parents of children with CP believe that hippotherapy is beneficial," says Burris Duncan, MD, the principal investigator of the study. "They believe it improves posture, balance and overall function. But before there is widespread acceptance and before insurance companies will compensate families for this kind of care, we need better data."
Children in the study will be offered short hippotherapy sessions during which electronic devices will gather information about muscle function. This information will help researchers determine if hippotherapy improves muscle symmetry and muscle tone.
"One of the real challenges of taking care of children with chronic disabilities like CP is exploring different ways that may help children improve their condition." Dr. Duncan says. "We must constantly be alert to therapies that have a potential to help these children and put the reports to scientific scrutiny. If they are found to be effective and improve the quality of life for these children, we will strongly encourage their use but, on the other hand, if they are found not to be effective, we must not support their use.
The study site and study partner is Therapeutic Riding of Tucson (TROT). Parents who are interested in enrolling a child with spastic cerebral palsy in this study should call Bev Blashill, (520) 626-4030.
The UA Steele Memorial Children's Research Center is the first center in the nation funded by NCCAM to conduct scientific studies on alternative therapies to treat childhood diseases. The Center is one of the eight centers of excellence within the UA College of Medicine.