What’s in a name?

We’ve recently advertised for a “Clinical Gait Analyst”. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised but we’ve had expressions of interest from all sorts of people that obviously have quite a different idea of what clinical gait analysis is to the one that I’ve got. To me a clinical gait analyst is someone who works in a clinical gait analysis service. They capture data using a 3-d optoelectronic measuring system (or equivalent) which may incorporate synchronous force plate or EMG measurements. Many also provide an interpretation of this, generally drawing on additional information from a quantitative physical examination. If clinically qualified they may provide clinical recommendations based on the analysis.

“Gait analysis” is, quite appropriately, used in many other contexts. Google up “gait analysis” and there is a good chance that the first hits will refer to a combination of video recording of running and expert advice to help you choose an expensive pair of running shoes. Another group of gait analysts will look at your running and suggests ways of improving your style to improve your times or prevent injury. Getting more clinical many orthotists, prosthetists, podiatrists and physiotherapists base much of their working lives on observational gait analysis. Some will take video recordings but many will simply look at how their patients are walking as a basis for clinical recommendations. On the more technical side there are a number of people interested in gait for a variety of reasons with little or know interest in clinical applications. There is another group of people who perform gait analysis for clinical research. They perform a variety of analyses on grouped data to try and learn more about a disease condition or intervention but don’t offer any results or interpretation for individual patients.  Gait analysis is also proposed as a biometric technique for security purposes. It’s not restricted to humans – Google up “canine” or “equine gait analysis” and you might be surprised by the number of hits.

None of us has a monopoly of such a generic term as “gait analysis” or even “clinical gait analysis” but I do think there is a need for something that refers specifically to what I do (perhaps as far as most readers of this blog are concerned to what we do). Trying to claim that only someone that does what I do is involved in gait analysis is ridiculous and mildly insulting to other practitioners. Perhaps we need a more specific term for what we do.

Some people use “3-d gait analysis” but taking a coronal and sagittal plane video, or even just watching someone walk from different angles is three dimensional. “Instrumented gait analysis” has also been used  but there are a wide range of instruments – a single force plate for example. The best I can come up with while writing this article is “Comprehensive Clinical Gait Analysis” (CCGA). To me this captures the aim of getting a reasonably complete picture of the way someone is walking (even if its rare that anything like a complete picture actually emerges!). Anyone have any other ideas?

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