An equilibrium-training course makes special needs people more confident

A unique training course developed at Tomsk Polytechnic University is reported to have a positive effect on students with special needs in maintaining equilibrium. The study involved students from both TPU, TUSUR University, and SSMU. The outcomes were published in the journal Human.Sport.Medicine

At the TPU Division for Physical Education a technique is being designed for equilibrium development on slippery surfaces for disabled people. The idea is to help people with special needs move around the streets, especially in winter, more confidently.

Within the project, the students with musculoskeletal disorders and low vision attended specialized physical education classes. The students were trained on simulators using a computer stabilizer with biofeedback. This is a moveable platform connected to the screen.

When the participants did exercises, special sensors were attached to them, which monitored, firstly, movements in space and, secondly, muscle contraction.

Project supervisor, Professor Leonid Kapilevich from the Division for Physical Education tells: 

‘We examined 27 students with special needs, 17 of them were with musculoskeletal disorders, 10 – with a high degree of myopia (6 -10 diopters). We managed to significantly expand the group thanks to cooperation with other Tomsk universities. The study involved students from TPU, SSMU, and TUSUR University.’

Before the training course, the students passed static and dynamic stability tests. According to the results, the exercise plan was corrected. In addition, special emphasis was placed on problems that occur when changing the position of the head.

During 10 days, the students did a 20-minute workout on simulators with biofeedback, performing an individual set of exercises. After that, they passed static and dynamic stability tests again. The data obtained were processed using statistical analysis software. The project participants were carefully interviewed afterward. 

‘When assessing the effectiveness of training we relied on two criteria: objective, that is statistical data and subjective, that is feedback from the students themselves. Automatically information obtained helped to accurately determine the parameters of the students when they keep balance while standing and performing exercises and changes for better were recorded at each one. As for the subjective criterion, many told that they feel much easier, the fear of moving along the streets has disappeared, which was great especially in winter when there are slippery surfaces and the probability of falling increases,’

says Leonid Kapilevich.

The research team is going to continue the project at a higher level involving the use of new equipment.

‘Within a new study, we will evaluate the blood supply to various parts of the brain in order to study in more detail the relationship between blood supply and changes in head position. We also want to work more with visual impairments. As a result, the project will imply a new medical device based on our technique,’ explains the TPU professor.