SOURCE: American Physical Therapy Association

November 14, 2005 11:44 ET

Researchers in Stroke Therapy Receive Largest NIH Rehabilitation Trial Grant

Trial to Examine Physical Therapist Interventions to Improve Walking in Stroke Patients

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- November 14, 2005 -- Rehabilitation interventions specifically designed to improve walking in patients during the first year following a stroke are the subject of the largest rehabilitation trial ever funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) are providing $13.5 million over a 5-year period in support of the "Locomotor Experience Applied Post-Stroke" (LEAPS) project. This clinical trial is designed to investigate the best timing and effectiveness of particular physical therapist interventions in reducing walking disabilities in patients following a stroke.

"Physical therapists play a vital role in stroke rehabilitation," said American Physical Therapy President (APTA) President Ben F Massey, Jr, PT, MA. "We believe this study will result in significant benefits for patients who are receiving physical therapy for stroke rehabilitation."

APTA member Pamela Duncan, PT, PhD, FAPTA, of the University of Florida, will serve as a principal investigator of the study and members Katherine Sullivan, PT, PhD, of the University of Southern California and Andrea Behrman, PT, PhD, of the University of Florida, serve as co-principal investigators. "One of the most important aspects of this clinical trial is that the research is being conducted in community-based hospitals," explains Sullivan. "In order to truly assess the effectiveness of physical therapy interventions, we need to study a broad range of patients who have had a stroke in the environments where they typically receive their treatments from physical therapists. The collaboration between University researchers with the clinicians in hospitals is an important step in integrating science into practice."

The LEAPS trial is a collaborative effort between rehabilitation researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, and clinicians in five community-based rehabilitation hospitals in Florida and Southern California. Researchers will study 400 stroke patients, ages 18 and older, to determine when it is best to begin physical therapy and the effectiveness of particular interventions in reducing walking disabilities following a stroke. The focus of the trial is a clinic-based program in which patients practice walking on a treadmill. The multi-site, randomized trial will assess whether there is a difference in patients who successfully recover walking ability using treadmill walking as compared to a group given a therapist-supervised, home-based, exercise program. For more information on the LEAPS trial, please e-mail to

Sullivan and Behrman are former Foundation for Physical Therapy awardees. The Data Management Center and Web-based data entry system developed as part PTClinResNet, a Clinical Research Network at the University of Southern California and funded by the Foundation for Physical Therapy, were highlighted throughout the winning proposal and will be used for this multi-site clinical trial.

The Foundation for Physical Therapy is a national, independent non-profit corporation dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of patient care by providing support for scientifically based and clinically relevant physical therapy research.

The American Physical Therapy Association is a national professional organization representing 67,000 members. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapy practice, research, and education.

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