Knee Strength and Ankle Range of Motion Impacts on Timed Function Tests in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: In the Era of Glucocorticoids

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of neuromuscular diseases








Duchenne muscular dystrophy; contracture; gait; strength


BACKGROUND: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a neuromuscular disorder that presents in childhood and is characterized by slowly progressive proximal weakness and lower extremity contractures that limit ambulatory ability [1, 2]. Contractures develop in the ankles, knees, and hips due to muscle imbalances, fibrotic changes, loss of strength, and static positioning [2, 5]. Currently, standards of care guidelines emphasize the importance of maintaining good musculoskeletal alignment through stretching, bracing, and glucocorticoid (GC) therapy to preserve strength and function. METHODS: This is a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data through the CINRG Duchenne Natural history study (DNHS). The objectives of this analysis are to understand the progression of ankle contractures for individuals with DMD and to investigate the relationship between progressive lower limb contractures, knee strength, and Timed Function Tests.A collection of TFTs including supine to stand (STS), 10 meter walk test (10MWT), and timed stair climbing (4SC) have been used to monitor disease progression and are predictive of loss of ambulation in these patients [4]. Multiple factors contribute to loss of ambulation, including progressive loss of strength and contracture development that leads to changing biomechanical demands for ambulation. A better understanding of the changes in strength and range of motion (ROM) that contribute to loss of function is important in a more individualized rehabilitation management plan. In this longitudinal study, we measured strength using quantitative muscle testing (QMT) with the CINRG Quantitative Measurement System (CQMS)), ROM was measuresed with a goniometer and TFTs were measured using a standard stopwatch and methodology. RESULTS: We enrolled 440 participants; mean baseline age was 8.9 (2.1, 28.0) years with 1321 observations used for analysis. GC use was stratified based on duration on drug with 18.7%at < 6 months or naïve; 4.3%<1 year; 58.0%1 < 10 years; and 19.3%between 10-25 years of GC use. Ankle ROM was better for those on GC compared to GC naive but did not significantly influence long-term progression rates. QMT, ROM, age and GCs contribute to speed of TFTs. Knee extension (KE) strength and Dorsiflexion (DF) ROM are significant predictors of speed for all TFTs (p < 0.001). Of the variables used in this analysis, KE strength is the primary predictor of walking speed, estimating that every pound increase in KE results in a 0.042 m/s improvement in 10MWT, and a smaller similar increase of 0.009 m/s with every degree of ankle DF ROM. CONCLUSION: GC use provides an improvement in strength and ROM but does not affect rate of change. Knee strength has a greater influence on speed of TFTs than DF ROM, although both are statistically significant predictors of speed. Results show that retaining knee strength [1, 2], along with joint flexibility, may be important factors in the ability to perform walking, climbing and supine to stand activities.


Health, Human Function, and Rehabilitation Sciences