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People with cerebral palsy (CP) are less physically active than the general population and, consequently, are at increased risk of preventable disease. Evidence indicates that low-moderate doses of physical activity can reduce disease risk and improve fitness and function in people with CP. Para athletes with CP typically engage in ‘performance-focused’ sports training, which is undertaken for the sole purpose of enhancing sports performance. Anecdotally, many Para athletes report that participation in performance-focused sports training confers meaningful clinical benefits which exceed those reported in the literature; however, supporting scientific evidence is lacking. The aim of this paper is to describe the protocol for an 18-month study evaluating the clinical effects of a performance-focused swimming training programme for people with CP who have high support needs.
This study will use a concurrent multiple-baseline, single-case experimental design across three participants with CP who have high support needs. Each participant will complete a five-phase trial comprising: baseline (A1); training phase 1 (B1); maintenance phase 1 (A2); training phase 2 (B2); and maintenance phase 2 (A3). For each participant, measurement of swim velocity, health-related quality of life and gross motor functioning will be carried out a minimum of five times in each of the five phases.
The study described will produce Level II evidence regarding the effects of performance-focused swimming training on clinical outcomes in people with CP who have high support needs. Findings are expected to provide an indication of the potential for sport to augment outcomes in neurological rehabilitation.
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