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Impact of Passive Leg Cycling in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury: A Systematic Review

Chetan P. Phadke, BPhT, PhD; Luciana Vierira, PT, PhD; Sunita Mathur, PT, PhD; Gerson Cipriano, Jr, PT, PhD; Farooq Ismail, MD and Chris Boulias, MD, PhD

Impact of Passive Leg Cycling in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury: A Systematic Review

Background: Passive leg cycling is an important clinical tool available for rehabilitation after spinal cord injury (SCI). Passive cycling can be used to derive exercise-related benefits in patients with poor motor control. There have been a number of studies examining the effects of passive cycling on a variety of outcomes.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of passive leg cycling interventions on cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and musculoskeletal outcomes post SCI, and to describe intensity, duration, and type of passive leg cycling post SCI.

Methods: PRISMA guided systematic review of literature based on searches in the following databases: PubMed/MEDLINE, PEDro, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar. Peer-reviewed publications that were written in English were included if they described the effects of a single session or multiple sessions of passive leg cycling in persons post SCI.

Results: Eleven papers were included: two were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), one was a crossover trial, and the rest were pre-post single-group designs. Three studies (including two RCTs) reported statistically significant benefits of multiple sessions of passive cycling on leg blood flow velocity, spasticity, reflex excitability and joint range of motion, and markers of muscle hypertrophy. About half of the single session studies showed statistically significant improvement in acute responses.

Conclusion: Multiple sessions of passive leg cycling showed benefits in three categories – cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neurological   – with medium to large effect sizes.

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