Feature Story | 10-Aug-2023

UniSA stroke boot camp punches above its weight to get results

University of South Australia

As a hardcore, military-style exercise group, bootcamp is certainly not for the timid. But an innovative take on the stereotypical idea of bootcamp is getting great results for people recovering from stroke.


Created and offered by the University of South Australia, the highly popular, dedicated, five-week ‘stroke bootcamp’ is delivering life changing results for people affected by stroke.


Initial results show outcomes that are three times better than standard treatments.


Supported by The Hospital Research Foundation Group, the stroke recovery clinic is led by UniSA physiotherapy students (under the guidance of practitioners) for people needing ongoing rehabilitation in their arms and hands following a stroke.


Physiotherapist and UniSA researcher, Dr Brenton Hordacre, says preliminary data and patient results show that the program is highly effective.


“After a stroke, many patients cannot move their bodies in the same way they used to. And practically, this might mean they can no longer grasp a coffee mug or bring a fork to their mouth during mealtimes,” Dr Hordacre says.


“Our program focussed on helping people regain these fundamental movements, so they get back some sense of normalcy, independence, and a higher quality of life.


“Our initial results show that improvements to patients’ upper limb function are almost three times the clinically meaningful change score we use to measure arm recovery,” Dr Hordacre says.


“We’re also finding that patients are really enjoying the intensive rehab – and want to do more.


“Going into the program, we also thought there was a risk that patients would not enjoy it, because the rehab was too challenging or intense. However, what we’ve found is that patients really enjoy the program, and the results they’re seeing, and don’t want to leave.”


In Australia, there are more than 100 strokes every day. One in four people will experience a stroke in their lifetime.


In response to this success, the UniSA team is looking at how to expand the intensive program to a supervised `drop-in’ service.


“The best available evidence for upper-limb recovery points towards more practice,” Dr Hordacre says.


“Stroke patients say that they want more intense, longer therapy to help restore their arm movements.


“Thanks to the HRF grant, we can meet this need and establish a dedicated upper-limb stroke recovery service for community patients that will deliver intensive, high-dose therapy.”  


Because of the student-led program, the service has been delivered at a lower cost to patients and they are also provided with home-based exercises and take-home kits. 


Executive Director of The Hospital Research Foundation Group’s Stroke division, Olivia Nassaris, says an $80,000 grant was provided to support the clinic.


“There is a huge need for more rehabilitation both for the early and later stages of stroke recovery,” Nassaris says.


“Up to 65 per cent of patients have persistent upper-limb impairment and are unable to incorporate their paretic hand in their daily activities.


“Other studies worldwide have shown that greater improvement can be achieved with higher doses of therapy, so we are very excited about putting this into practice for our clients and positioning South Australia as a leader in stroke recovery.”




Media contacts:

UniSA - Annabel Mansfield M: +61 479 182 489 E: Annabel.Mansfield@unsia.edu.au

HRF – Amy Durant E: ADurant@hospitalresearch.org.au

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