As a student in the Department of Physical Therapy, Elana Karkowski-Schelar has had a unique opportunity to participate in advanced research.
By working in the Neuromuscular Control of Movement Laboratory at Saint Louis University with Joanne M. Wagner, Ph.D., PT, ATC, she has gotten a glimpse into the intricacies of high evidence research.
Karkowski-Schelar's experiences have given her exposure to many concepts in physical therapy before learning about them in the classroom setting.
The Neuromuscular Control of Movement Laboratory is currently focused on persons with multiple sclerosis.
While Multiple Sclerosis is a common degenerative neurological disease in adults, there is currently little research to guide a proper physical therapy assessment and treatment of a patient with multiple sclerosis.
Recently, Karkowski-Schelar had the opportunity to present a poster titled, "The relationships between lower extremity strength, walking speed and walking endurance in adults with multiple sclerosis: A preliminary report, Karkowski-Schelar, E.C., Naismith, R.T., Wagner, J.M." at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections meeting in New Orleans.
|Elana Karkowski-Schelar, a Physical Therapy student presents her poster at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections meeting in New Orleans. Submitted photo|
The poster was available for viewing by more than 9,000 physical therapists from all over the United States who were in attendance. Karkowski-Schelar and 10 of her classmates who attended the conference had a rare opportunity to hear talks given about the latest and best research being done in all areas of physical therapy. Among the speakers were the authors of many of the text books used in lectures.
In order to prepare for this opportunity, Karkowski-Schelar worked closely with Wagner to develop a research question, identify the appropriate research data to analyze, and perform a statistical analysis of the information.
She decided to look at how knee and ankle strength relate to the walking problems encountered by people with multiple sclerosis.
The preliminary results showed that in these particular participants the plantarflexor muscles, or the muscles that you use to push your gas pedal, have the strongest relationship with a subject's ability to walk fast and to walk longer distances.
This means that that if you can increase the strength of this muscle you might be able to improve a person's ability to walk.
Karkowski-Schelar believes that, "Although at times research feels far from the real world, it takes seeing just one subject who can't go to their child's soccer game -- because they can't walk to the bleachers in the sun without experiencing extreme fatigue -- to realize that it is worth all of the work if you are able to figure out just one thing that might help someone's life be a little better."