Cross-Education for Improving Strength and Mobility After Distal Radius Fractures: A Randomized Controlled Trial
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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of cross-education (contralateral effect of unilateral strength training) during recovery from unilateral distal radius fractures on muscle strength, range of motion (ROM), and function. DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial (26-wk follow-up). SETTING: Hospital, orthopedic fracture clinic. PARTICIPANTS: Women older than 50 years with a unilateral distal radius fracture. Fifty-one participants were randomized and 39 participants were included in the final data analysis. INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomized to standard rehabilitation (Control) or standard rehabilitation plus strength training (Train). Standard rehabilitation included forearm casting for 40.4±6.2 days and hand exercises for the fractured extremity. Nonfractured hand strength training for the training group began immediately postfracture and was conducted at home 3 times/week for 26 weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was peak force (handgrip dynamometer). Secondary outcomes were ROM (flexion/extension; supination/pronation) via goniometer and the Patient Rated Wrist Evaluation questionnaire score for the fractured arm. RESULTS: For the fractured hand, the training group (17.3±7.4kg) was significantly stronger than the control group (11.8±5.8kg) at 12 weeks postfracture (P<.017). There were no significant strength differences between the training and control groups at 9 (12.5±8.2kg; 11.3±6.9kg) or 26 weeks (23.0±7.6kg; 19.6±5.5kg) postfracture, respectively. Fractured hand ROM showed that the training group had significantly improved wrist flexion/extension (100.5°±19.2°) than the control group (80.2°±18.7°) at 12 weeks postfracture (P<.017). There were no significant differences between the training and control groups for flexion/extension ROM at 9 (78.0°±20.7°; 81.7°±25.7°) or 26 weeks (104.4°±15.5°; 106.0°±26.5°) or supination/pronation ROM at 9 (153.9°±23.9°; 151.8°±33.0°), 12 (170.9°±9.3°; 156.7°±20.8°) or 26 weeks (169.4°±11.9°; 162.8°±18.1°), respectively. There were no significant differences in Patient Rated Wrist Evaluation questionnaire scores between the training and control groups at 9 (54.2±39.0; 65.2±28.9), 12 (36.4±37.2; 46.2±35.3), or 26 weeks (23.6±25.6; 19.4±16.5), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Strength training for the nonfractured limb after a distal radius fracture was associated with improved strength and ROM in the fractured limb at 12 weeks postfracture. These results have important implications for rehabilitation strategies after unilateral injuries.
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