A Physiologically Based Clinical Measure for Spastic Reflexes in Spinal Cord Injury

Document Type




Format of Original

8 p.

Publication Date




Source Publication

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2004.01.033


Objective: To test the validity of the Spinal Cord Assessment Tool for Spastic reflexes (SCATS), a clinical tool intended to rate spastic motor behavior after spinal cord injury (SCI).

Design: By using correlational analyses, the SCATS was validated using concurrent measurements of kinematics and electromyograms and traditional assessments of spasms and spastic hypertonia.

Setting: Research laboratory (kinematics and electromyography) and outpatient medical clinic (traditional measures of spastic hypertonia).

Participants: Eleven people with SCI were used for kinematic and electromyographic measurements. Seventeen people with SCI were used for comparison with other clinical scales.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Kinematic and surface electromyographic measurements of the tested lower extremity were used to quantify magnitude and/or duration of motor behaviors, and the Penn Spasm Frequency Scale (PSFS) and the Ashworth Scale were used to measure spasm frequency and resistance to joint movement for the hip flexors, knee flexors, and ankle plantarflexors, respectively. Concurrently, the SCATS was used to assess the clonus response to an imposed ankle dorsiflexion, the flexion response to a stimulus to the foot, and the knee extensor activity in response to an imposed leg extension. Each component of the SCATS was compared with the Ashworth Scale, the PSFS, and kinematic and electromyographic measurements by using the Spearman rank correlation test.

Results:Clonus, flexor spasm, and extensor spasm responses measured by using the SCATS correlated significantly with kinematic and electromyographic recordings (P<.01). Significant correlations were also observed between the SCATS extensor spasms and the Ashworth scores for hip and knee flexors and for ankle plantarflexors (ρ=.98, .88, .61, respectively). Also, SCATS flexor spasms and SCATS clonus scores correlated significantly with some of the Ashworth scores. Only SCATS clonus scores correlated significantly with spasm frequency measures (ρ=.59, P<.05).

Conclusions: The SCATS produced a valid measure of 3 distinct types of spastic motor behaviors in SCI and may provide a complementary tool for measuring spastic hypertonia. Such a measure is valuable because current assessment tools do not differentiate between the different types of spastic motor behaviors that manifest after SCI. Distinguishing the 3 spastic reactions using an efficient and valid clinical tool may help guide management of spastic hypertonia in SCI.


Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Vol. 86, No. 1 (January 2005): 52-59. DOI.