SAN DIEGO -- efi Sports Medicine’s Total Gym can be used to accurately measure the functional status of patients recovering from lower extremity injuries, according to a study by researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) and the University of Toledo’s Health Science Campus.

The study, published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, found that the bodyweight resistance training apparatus allows for the measurement of leg performance and provides “meaningful information” about the current functional status of a patient earlier in the rehabilitation and recovery process, according to the study’s lead investigator Daniel Cipriani, Ph.D., who also is an associate professor at SDSU.

The study also shows that the potential benefits for safely training the deconditioned population and individuals 55 years and older are significant, according to efi Sports Medicine, San Diego.

Few options exist for rehabilitation specialists to precisely measure lower extremity performance in individuals with restricted weight bearing ability. In the past, rehab specialists had to conduct manual muscle tests to determine strength and functional performance in a patient's lower extremities (i.e., hip, knee, foot or ankle) in order to bear full weight without aid, which is often an inaccurate measure.

Cipriani saw the need for a more reliable partial weight bearing (PWB) test to track patient progress earlier in the rehabilitation process and helped develop a consistent tool to measure leg strength using Total Gym.

Thirty-seven adult patients recovering from an injury and/or surgery to the ankle, knee or hip were recruited from orthopaedic surgery and physical therapy clinics in San Diego and Toledo, OH. All patients were tested using the Total Gym PWB performance tests, which included the number of one-legged squat repetitions a patient could do in 30 seconds and the time needed to complete 20 squat repetitions on one leg—all at an incline level that used 55 percent of the individual's body weight as resistance. Patients also went through timed ascending/descending stair tests, walking speed and single-leg hop tests.

“The Total Gym tests were able to reliably detect change in patient status, such as functional improvement, or whether a patient exhibited no change or loss of performance,” Cipriani said.

The research found a significant connection between how many repetitions a patient could do on the Total Gym and how fast that patient could walk and climb stairs. After four to six weeks, patients returned for follow-up testing and those who showed improvement in the Total Gym performance tests also showed improvement in their stair climbing ability and walking speed.

“Total Gym has evolved from solely an exercise apparatus for rehab patients to now a measurement tool to provide valid information about a patient's progress toward full weight bearing function,” Cipriani said. “The research proves that the partial weight bearing tests on Total Gym were responsive to the positive changes in patients' progress.”

In addition, Cipriani noted that patients were “receptive” to the Total Gym tests whereas stair climbing and hop tests could cause anxiety or fear. The Total Gym tests allow patients to “really give their best effort” without fear of falling or injury, he added.