Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) has a significant effect on hand function which in turn, may compromise independence and quality of life. This study sought to identify the extent of muscle weakness, spasticity and changes in joint range in the hands of individuals with FRDA. The group found evidence for both upper and lower motor neuron impairment in this population. Thirteen (68.0%) participants had spasticity in the dominant wrist and finger flexors, and seven (36.8%) had contracture in at least one joint of either hand. Sixteen (84.3%) participants demonstrated weakness in the intrinsic musculature of the hands and the majority demonstrated some degree of hyperextension at the metacarpophalangeal joints of either hand. Significant correlations were found between functional independence capacity and clinical parameters, and components of spasticity and weakness in both the dominant and non-dominant hands. Moreover, spasticity and weakness in the dominant hand were shown to be significant predictors of reduced functional independence capacity. This study highlights for the first time the incidence of upper limb spasticity which, in combination with weakness and contracture, suggests a multifactorial source of hand dysfunction in people with FRDA.
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