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Motion Analysis Research Program at Shriners Children's

Transforming Children's Movement through Motion Analysis Research

Since 1996, our motion analysis centers (MACs) have been collecting data that we're using to more effectively treat Shriners Children's patients with conditions that affect their movement.

More recently, we've expanded how we use and apply motion analysis data, processing and analyzing it to gain a greater understanding of the orthopedic and neuromuscular conditions we treat. After removing any information that could identify a patient, we, often in collaboration with other research institutions, take a detailed look at the interactions between muscles, joints and bones and study how those interactions influence a child's movement.

We're applying this data to our own research, as well as sharing it with our research partners. Together we'll develop more advanced treatments for conditions like scoliosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bones) and foot deformities. This work is also allowing us to create more customized orthotics and prosthetics for children with these conditions.

Motion Analysis Research Partnerships

Motion analysis brings animation techniques to the clinical and research setting. High-speed cameras, reflective markers placed on the body, force platforms in the floor, and muscle sensors record measurements and movement patterns, allowing us to pay special attention to how a child walks, runs, swings their arms and bends and twists.

Shriners Children's distinguishes itself internationally as a recognized leader in clinical motion analysis and we're well-known for the sophistication of the technologies we use at our MACs. This reputation allows us to collaborate with prestigious universities and their researchers in areas including mathematics and biomedical engineering.

Two of our current partnerships are with Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. Both are being led by Gerald Harris, Ph.D., director of the motion analysis center at Shriners Children's Chicago.  

With these partnerships and the collaborative research being done by Shriners Children's researchers and care providers, motion analysis data is guiding us toward countless new treatments and practices.

Researching Atypical Foot Movement

In collaboration with Marquette University, Karen Kruger, Ph.D., and Gerald Harris, Ph.D., from Shriners Children's Chicago, have developed biplane fluoroscopy imaging. Think of it as a real-time X-ray that consists of thousands of images put together, resulting in a 3-D video. In the past, they had access to limited research data, primarily from examinations, traditional X-rays and MRIs. However, with this new approach, they can more effectively study areas such as foot deformities, the use of orthotics and long-term surgical results.

Adding AI to the Research Process

Joseph Krzak, Ph.D., from Shriner Children's Chicago, is developing machine learning approaches to provide more advanced analysis of the vast data that comes from detailed motion analyses. Machine learning uses artificial intelligence to analyze data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human involvement. The information obtained will rapidly advance what is known and understood about how to address the mobility challenges caused by various pediatric conditions.

With these partnerships and the collaborative research being done by Shriners Children's researchers and care providers, motion analysis data is guiding us toward countless new treatments and practices.

Most hospitals don’t have motion analysis labs, and they don’t focus the way that we do on the pediatric population. We have data that will have an impact on, and provide better care for the child in the long term.
Gerald Harris, Ph.D., director of the motion analysis center at Shriners Children's Chicago

Motion Analysis at Shriners Children's

Motion analysis can help us to understand the movement of children with neuromuscular-acquired or congenital disorders and develop an appropriate plan based on what we learn.
View Transcript
Fran Farley:
When a child has a condition that changes typical development and makes moving difficult, advanced diagnostic techniques may be necessary to understand fully what's causing the movement problem. Motion analysis can help us to understand the movement of children with neuromuscular-acquired or congenital disorders and develop an appropriate plan based on what we learn.

Speaker 2:
Shriners Children's has the largest motion analysis system in the world and utilizes computer-generated imagery or CGI just like in the movies. This type of in-depth gait analysis allows for a better understanding of how children walk and move, use their braces or walking aids and how we can improve their walking ability. Our team of orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, orthotists and prosthetists meet to discuss the results of the gait analysis and create a personalized treatment plan for the patient.

Speaker 2:
From there, the MAC team determines the best plan of care going forward for the child, including recommendations for surgery, physical therapy and/or braces. The MAC provides services for a wide range of patients with diagnoses that include but are not limited to cerebral palsy, arthrogryposis, clubfoot, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida.

Speaker 2:
We start by attaching small wireless EMG sensors and reflective markers to the skin the same way you would apply a sticker. Then, we ask our patients to walk normally. As the patient moves, the 18 Vicon infrared cameras track their movements while four force plates record ground reaction forces. This information is translated into a 3D computer model of the patient walking. Our motion capture camera system is able to detect the motions of all of the joints, activity of all of the muscles and overall efficiency of walking that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Fran Farley:
Once we analyze the information we collect, we'll partner with your child's Shriners care team to recommend a care plan, making changes that can reduce their pain or discomfort, and ultimately making it easier to do those things that are important to them. Through regular communication between our MAC locations, we share information, data and knowledge, which help all of the children we treat. A visit to the Shriners Children's Motion Analysis Center can help unravel the mystery and put your child on the path to reaching their goals and discovering their full potential.

Gaining a Better Understanding of Human Movement

A person's pattern of walking is known as a gait pattern. Each of our motion analysis centers has collected thousands of data points related to gait patterns and human movement. This data is helping researchers develop an overall understanding of both typical and atypical patterns of movement.

female patient walking during motion analysis test

Breakthroughs in Pediatric Research

Support or learn more about the advancements in pediatric research that are helping transform the way we care for children.