This study was designed to evaluate the effect of a home-based progressive resistance strength-training program on the self-concept of children with cerebral palsy.
A randomized, controlled trial was used to evaluate the effects of a six-week strength-training program on self-concept immediately after completion of the program (week six) and at a follow-up session held 18 weeks after the initial assessment. Seventeen children [eight boys, nine girls; mean age 12.1 years (SD 2.5)] with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy were recruited. Participants in the experimental group completed a home-based progressive resistance strength-training program using three exercises to strengthen the major support muscles of the lower limb. Participants in the control group undertook their normal daily activities. Self-concept was measured by the Self-Perception Profile for Children.
Overall, the self-concept of both groups was positive at baseline and at six and 18 weeks. However, compared with controls, the experimental group showed decreased self-concept in the domain of scholastic competence and a trend for a decrease in social acceptance at six weeks. At follow-up, the experimental group had reduced self-concept in the domains of scholastic competence and social acceptance compared with the control group.
These unexpected results suggest that participation in a relatively short home-based strength-training program may have an inhibitory effect on the self-concept of children with cerebral palsy. Despite the inhibitory effect, self-concept in the experimental group remained positive after strength training, suggesting that clinicians should not be overly concerned about the psychological effects of the intervention.