Background. Navigating obstacles whilst walking might be associated with poorer balance and a higher risk of falling in individuals with symptomatic Huntington’s disease (symp-HD). However, this issue has not been investigated within the literature. Objective. A unique obstacle navigation experiment was designed to examine adaptive gait patterns in order to identify spatiotemporal gait characteristics that might be associated with poorer balance and a higher risk of falling in symp-HD. Method. Sixteen diagnosed symp-HD participants and 16 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were included. Gait was examined in 3 experimental conditions: baseline walking, walking while navigating around 1 obstacle, and walking while navigating around 2 obstacles. Navigation around obstacle walks was divided into three step phases (approach, navigation, recovery). Group differences in gait variables were analyzed at baseline and during walking for each obstacle condition respectively. Gait variables were also correlated with the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) and Timed Up and Go (TUG) test. Results. Symp-HD participants, compared with controls, performed significantly poorer on most gait variables during baseline walking. Symp-HD participants significantly decreased their step-length while navigating around 1 obstacle, and increased their step-time while navigating around 1 and 2 obstacles. There were no significant group differences in step-width. Variables associated with navigating around obstacles correlated significantly with BBS and TUG clinical tools, which have been associated in the literature with an increased risk of falling in symp-HD. Conclusion. These findings could aid clinicians in better managing risk of falls in people with Huntington’s disease through targeted and effective strategies.
- Huntington's disease
- Neurodegenerative disease