The Oxford Foot Model – helping children to walk | Action Medical Research

The Oxford Foot Model – helping children to walk

Walking can be very painful for the many thousands of children with cerebral palsy (CP) and other foot problems. This has a major impact on their lives and can exclude them from taking part in numerous activities. Ninety per cent of children with CP develop deformities in their feet caused by unusual forces on the foot during their early development.

In 2001 Action Medical Research awarded a grant of £140,982 to Mr Tim Theologis and his research team at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford and the University of Oxford. Their aim was to develop a new tool to improve doctors’ understanding of problems leading to foot abnormalities and deformity in children with CP. The team collaborated with the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome, Italy, Vicon Motion Systems and Vaquita Software, who provided hardware and software for some of the data collection and analysis.

This led to the discovery of a new way to analyse movement patterns within specific parts of the foot, which became known as the Oxford Foot Model (OFM).

The OFM analyses gait – the way someone walks – and the data collected helps doctors to understand the cause of possible abnormalities that can occur when walking, as well as potential treatments.

The analysis is made using motion capture technology – markers are placed on various parts of the feet and legs and specialised cameras track the movement of the feet and legs. Electrodes can also be placed on the surface of the skin to detect muscle activity.

The OFM has led to a greater knowledge of how foot deformities occur, including high arch, low arch, club foot, amputation and when part of the foot is missing through inherited conditions or accidents, stiff feet, feet that are too flexible and bunions – anything where there’s a mechanical problem with the foot.

The OFM is now the standard way doctors make accurate decisions to help treat people with foot problems. It is used across the UK in clinics, hospitals and universities, benefitting around 4,000 children a year who have their foot movements assessed with it.

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