The effect of resistance training on muscle strength and physical function in adults with acute burn injury

Mr Paul Gittings1,2,3,4,5, Professor Benedict Wand3, Dr Dana Hince5, Dr Tiuffany Grisbrook6, Winthrop Professor Fiona Wood1,2,7, Associate Professor Dale Edgar1,2,3,4,5,7

1State ADult Burns Service, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch, Australia, 2Fiona Wood Foundation, Murdoch, Australia, 3School of Physiotherapy, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Australia, 4Burn Injury research Node, The University of Notre Dame Australia, , Fremantle, Australia, 5Insitute of Health Research, The University of Notre Dame Australia, , Fremantle, Australia, 6School of Physiotherapy & Exercise Science, Curtin University, Bentley, Australia, 7Burn Injury Research Unit, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia


Exercise therapy is a core component of rehabilitation after burn injury, however, there are limitations to our knowledge of best practice. Resistance training (RT) may have some benefit for improving muscle strength after burn injury, though the quality of evidence for this is low.

To determine if a high load RT program is feasible and whether the addition of early RT to routine physiotherapy improves muscle strength and self-report physical function after burn injury.

Allocation to a resistance training group (RTG) or control group (CG) was randomised. The RTG performed a 4-week RT program commencing within 72 hours of injury in addition to usual rehabilitation. Maximal isometric muscle strength and self-report functional surveys for upper and lower limb were assessed at 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months after enrolment. Muscle strength results were analysed using a mixed effects linear regression and negative binomial regression was used for physical function. Adjustment for covariables and group by time interaction was included in all models.

Muscle strength improved for both treatment groups (co-eff 1.25; p<0.001). The change in muscle strength over time was not statistically different between groups (co-eff 0.637; p=0.095). Strength at enrolment, TBSA and gender were associated with muscle strength. Data analysis for physical function is currently being competed and results will be available for presentation.

We did not find evidence that this RT intervention in the acute phase of injury offered additional benefit to muscle strength outcomes. However, RT was a feasible practice that did not do harm.


Paul is a senior Physiotherapist with the State Adult Burns Service in Western Australia and a PhD student at the University of Notre Dame Australia. His research is investigating the outcomes of implementing a resistance training exercise program in adults with an acute burn injury.

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