THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE
Life is all about balance. Sour Patch Kids accomplished the perfect balance of sweet and sour. SCUBA diving bliss happens when one is neutrally buoyant, just the right amount of floating and sinking. Mobility is dependent on optimal balance, too. A little too much of left or a little too much of right, and…well, you know.
Optimal balance requires a few “senses” feeding information: vision to give orientation in space, information about the position of a body part relative to others (proprioception), and the control center in the brain to process all of the information (cerebellum). It is important to note that if you are missing one of these senses (such as vision), one can still maintain balance; but, the rest of the components need to work that much harder. The brain and spinal cord process all of this data and then controls one’s muscles to maintain a position or make some moves. Therefore, strength is just as important as the other components when it comes to posture and movement.
For individuals with Cerebral Palsy, there may be impairments in some or all of these important components. Physical therapy is often focused on addressing these particular impairments. That’s why I got so excited when I came across this research study by Lucia Gonzalez and her colleagues. In their study, they randomized twenty-seven children and adolescents with Spastic Cerebral Palsy into two groups. One group received traditional physical therapy while the other group received slackline training. Both groups trained three times a week for 6 weeks. Both groups improved in their postural control and motor skills with greater improvement in the slackline training group for several measures. In addition, the slackline training was rated as requiring only light exertion. Now, I love slacklining. But, for me, I would definitely NOT rate it as light exertion!
González L, Argüelles J, González V, Winge K, Iscar M, Olmedillas H, Blanco M, Valenzuela PL, Lucia A, Federolf PA, Santos L. Slackline Training in Children with Spastic Cerebral Palsy: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Nov 21;17(22):8649.
WHAT IS SLACKLINING?
Slacklining is a sport (or sometimes an obsession) where a person balances on a strip of nylon webbing that is attached to two stable structures. Unlike tightrope walking, a slackline is not strongly tensioned. Instead, it kinda sags. And, it’s that sag that adds to the challenge!
Generally, a slackline is attached between two trees. With the growing popularity of slacklining over the past few years, there are several commercially available “kits” that make it easy to set one up. Works great when you have two solid trees hanging around at just the right distance apart without a swamp with crocodiles or a garden of pricker-filled bushes between them. But, when that isn’t the case, Gibbon, one of the most well-known slackline equipment companies, came up with this free-standing slackline!
The SlackRack lets you set up a slackline anywhere, including indoors. It may be the only safe and practical way of slacklining in the comfort of your living room! And, for physical therapy gyms, it is a no-brainer. It is very light making moving it a snap. Slide it between parallel bars, add a well-adjusted walker, or a pair of Loftstrand crutches and slacklining becomes accessible to even more people!
The SlackRack comes in 2 models, the Classic and the Fitness. Gibbon recommends the Classic for families and the Fitness for balance and coordination training. Hmmm, what if your family wants to train balance and coordination? Then, which one? We bought the Fitness model to check out so I haven’t tried the Classic. You probably can’t go wrong with either one.
Both models are eight feet long. If you are short on space, the SlackRack can be set up as a four-footer. Add the optional extension and you can cruise along for twelve feet. Remember, the longer the slackline, the more it will wobble and swing.
I’ve been dropping hints at our hospital to add a few SlackRacks to our therapy gym. I’m all for the therapeutic benefits of fun stuff. And, I think slacklining can be tons of fun. We just need a few more research studies to help us to optimize our prescriptions for therapeutic slackline training!
Have you slacklined before? Do you think it can be used as therapy?