Summary: Alex X. Martínez
Reference: Jolk, C., Dalgas, U., Osada, N., Platen, P., Marziniak. M. (2015) Effects of sports climbing on muscle performance and balance for patients with multiple sclerosis: A case series. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 22 (8), 371.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) often results in motor problems, muscle weakness and poor balance, all of which limit activities of daily living. Muscle strength, balance, aerobic capacity, walking speed, mood, fatigue and quality of life can be improved by traditional resistance and endurance training in individuals with MS. However, long-term adherence to traditional rehabilitation programs using traditional modalities of resistance and endurance training is poor.
Sports climbing is a popular activity in which the whole body is engaged. Sports climbing could improve balance and reduce the risk of falls. The aim of this study was to examine the feasibility and impact of a sports climbing program on muscle performance and balance.
Over a five-week period, six individuals with MS performed a total of five climbing sessions. The intervention consisted of two hours of climbing routes with varying levels of difficulty. Participants climbed in groups to ensure social interaction and engagement. Muscle strength (isometric muscle performance), balance (balance board), and feasibility (fatigue, feelings and exhaustion self-reports) were evaluated pre- and post-intervention.
Intervention adherence was 100 percent. All participants completed the study and participated in each session. Average isometric knee extensor muscle strength improved by 23.4 percent (p = 0.031) after five weeks of intervention. The muscle performance of the knee extensors of the weak leg improved significantly, by 30.1 percent (p = 0.031). Balance did not improve significantly.
Upon completion of the trials, participants created self-organized groups to continue climbing. Due to the short intervention period, improvement of isometric muscle strength could be caused by neural adaptations. Participants opted for the most difficult routes during each climbing session, ensuring the application of the progressive overload principle. Conclusions of the study should be taken with caution due to its small sample size, which could be a limitation and the reason why variables that were trending toward a significant difference did not achieve significance.
This study demonstrated that sports climbing appears to be feasible in people with mild relapsing remitting MS, and it appears that it also improves knee extensor performance.