Validation of an Inertial Sensor System for Physical Therapists to Quantify Movement Coordination During Functional Tasks

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Physical therapists evaluate patients’ movement patterns during functional tasks; yet, their ability to interpret these observations consistently and accurately is unclear. Physical therapists would benefit from a clinic-friendly method for accurately quantifying movement patterns during functional tasks. Inertial sensors, which are inexpensive, portable sensors capable of monitoring multiple body segments simultaneously, are a relatively new rehabilitation technology. We sought to validate an inertial sensor system by comparing lower limb and lumbar spine kinematic data collected simultaneously with a commercial inertial sensor system and a motion camera system while 10 subjects performed functional tasks. Mean and peak segment angular displacement data were calculated and compared between systems. Mean angular displacement root mean square error between the systems across all tasks and segments was <5°. Mean differences in peak displacements were generally acceptable (<5°) for the femur, tibia, and pelvis segments for all tasks; however, the inertial system overestimated lumbar flexion compared to the motion camera system. These data suggest that the inertial system is capable of measuring angular displacements within 5° of a system widely accepted for its accuracy. Standardization of sensor placement, better attachment methods, and improvement of inertial sensor algorithms will further increase the accuracy of the system.

Tulipani and Henry are with the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT. Boocock and Reid are with the Health and Rehabilitation Research Institute, School of Clinical Sciences, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Lomond is with the Division of Exercise and Health Sciences, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI. El-Gohary is with APDM, Inc., Portland, OR, USA. Henry is also with the Department of Rehabilitation Therapies, University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington, VT.

Address author correspondence to Lindsey J. Tulipani at lindsey.tulipani@uvm.edu.
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