Tester and testing procedure influence clinically determined gait speed Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:There is a clinical need to be able to reliably detect meaningful changes (0.1 to 0.2 m/s) in usual gait speed (UGS) considering reduced gait speed is associated with morbidity and mortality. RESEARCH QUESTION:What is the impact of tester on UGS assessment, and the influence of test repetition (trial 1 vs. 2), timing method (manual stopwatch vs. automated timing), and starting condition (stationary vs. dynamic start) on the ability to detect changes in UGS and fast gait speed (FGS)? METHODS:UGS and FGS was assessed in 725 participants on a 8-m course with infrared timing gates positioned at 0, 2, 4 and 6 m. Testing was performed by one of 13 testers trained by a single researcher. Time to walk 4-m from a stationary start (i.e. from 0-m to 4-m) was measured manually using a stopwatch and automatically via the timing gates at 0-m and 4-m. Time taken to walk 4-m with a dynamic start was measured during the same trial by recording the time to walk between the timing gates at 2-m and 6-m (i.e. after 2-m acceleration). RESULTS:Testers differed for UGS measured using manual vs. automated timing (p = 0.02), with five and two testers recording slower and faster UGS using manual timing, respectively. 95% limits of agreement for trial 1 vs. 2, manual vs. automated timing, and dynamic vs. stationary start ranged from ±0.15 m/s to ±0.20 m/s, coinciding with the range for a clinically meaningful change. Limits of agreement for FGS were larger ranging from ±0.26 m/s to ±0.35 m/s. SIGNIFICANCE:Repeat testing of UGS should performed by the same tester or using an automated timing method to control for tester effects. Test protocol should remain constant both between and within participants as protocol deviations may result in detection of an artificial clinically meaningful change.

publication date

  • 2019