Although the Zeno Walkway System and ProtoKinetics Movement Analysis Software (PKMAS) are most commonly used to analyze gait, the flexibility in the software allows researchers and clinicians to develop their own testing protocols. A research study out of the Recovery and Performance Laboratory at Memorial University, Bipedal Hopping Reveals Evidence of Advanced Neuromuscular Aging Among People With Mild Multiple Sclerosis, demonstrates one alternative way to use the Zeno Walkway System and PKMAS.  

Influence of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system that impacts over 2.5 million people. This impairment of the central nervous system results in difficulties with balance and coordination. Therefore, people with MS often display impaired gait and an increased fall risk.

The timed 25-ft walk test is most frequently used to measure a patient’s walking ability. This test consists of measuring how long it takes an individual to travel a 25-ft walkway. For years, this test has been used to evaluate the walking ability of MS patients. However, research has found that this walking test may be too simple to reveal mild changes that occur in people with MS.

A more difficult task, such as hopping, may be more effective in assessing MS patients because it involves balance, coordination, and bursts of lower limb and core power. Hopping may reveal the decreased muscle strength and neural control of people with mild MS.

Studying Quantitative Hopping Variables Using the Zeno Walkway System

Work from Megan Kirkland et al. examined the effectiveness of using bipedal hopping to assess mild MS patients. The study matched MS patients with control elderly patients based on their age, gender, and years of education. Each participant completed a 25-ft walk test followed by a bipedal hopping trial—hopping along the walkway at a comfortable pace. Researchers used the Zeno Walkway System and PKMAS to collect and analyze the bipedal hopping trials. The Zeno Walkway, which has a 16-level pressure sensing pad that detects footfalls, provided data, video, and important temporal, spatial, and pressure values. PKMAS analyzed the data to provide average hop/step time, average hop/step width, average hop/step length, velocity, percentage of time in stance, integral mean pressure and center of pressure path efficiency.

In order to assess how effective hopping was at detecting MS, the researchers compared their outcomes to the Expanded Disease Severity Scale (EDSS). The EDSS indicates the ability that an individual can walk/move on their own. The study found that hop length was a strong and significant predictor of the EDSS score. On the other hand, the 25-ft walk test, hop length symmetry and variability were not predictive of EDSS scores, leading to the suggestion that hop length may be effective in detecting mild MS.

Future Applications of the ProtoKinetics Tools

For years, the Zeno Walkway System and PKMAS have been used to obtain accurate information on gait and numerous researchers have used this gait analysis to better understand movement impairments and disorders. The study in this article demonstrated another collection protocol that the Zeno Walkway System can be used to analyze, proving effective in assessing the bipedal hopping. The flexibility within the PKMAS allows for researchers and clinicians to show creativity when setting up their next movement analysis protocol. New protocols can shed new insights on disease and potentially find more sensitive measures for disease diagnosis and progression tracking.

Kirkland MC, Downer MB, Holloway BJ, Wallack EM, Lockyer EJ, Buckle NCM, Abbott CL, Ploughman M. Bipedal Hopping Reveals Evidence of Advanced Neuromuscular Aging Among People With Mild Multiple Sclerosis. J Mot Behav. 2017 Sep-Oct;49(5):505-513. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2016.1241750. Epub 2016 Dec 29. PMID: 28033483.