Study design: Within-participant randomised controlled trial.
Objectives: To determine whether strength training combined with usual care increases strength in partially paralysed muscles of people with recent spinal cord injury (SCI) more than usual care alone. Settings: SCI units in Australia and India. Methods: Thirty people with recent SCI undergoing inpatient rehabilitation participated in this 12-week trial. One of the following muscle groups was selected as the target muscle group for each participant: the elbow flexors, elbow extensors, knee flexors or knee extensors. The target muscle on one side of the body was randomly allocated to the experimental group and the same muscle on the other side of the body was allocated to the control group. Strength training was administered to the experimental muscle but not to the control muscle. Participants were assessed at baseline and 12 weeks later. The primary outcome was maximal isometric muscle strength, and the secondary outcomes were spasticity, fatigue and participants perception of function and strength. Results: There were no dropouts, and participants received 98% of the training sessions. The mean (95% confidence interval (CI)) between-group difference for isometric strength was 4.3 Nm (1.9-6.8) with a clinically meaningful treatment effect of 2.7 Nm. The mean (95% CI) between-group difference for spasticity was 0.03/5 points (?0.25 to 0.32). Conclusion: Strength training increases strength in partially paralysed muscles of people with recent SCI, although it is not clear whether the size of the treatment effect is clinically meaningful. Strength training has no deleterious effects on spasticity.