Clinical and Research Readiness for Spinal Muscular Atrophy: The Time Is Now for Knowledge Translation

Kristin J. Krosschell*, Sally Dunaway Young, Ilse Peterson, Mary Curry, Allison Mazzella, Jill Jarecki, Rosangel Cruz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Disease-modifying therapies for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) are rapidly changing the outlook for many individuals by substantially altering the clinical course, phenotypic expression, and functional outcomes. Physical therapists have played critical roles in the effective conduct and execution of clinical trials leading to the approval of these therapies. Given the treatment landscape, educating practicing clinicians to understand best practice is of great importance, and a timely call to action to facilitate knowledge translation from SMA researchers to clinicians is necessary. The SMA Clinical Trial Readiness Program engaged clinical and research centers, identified physical therapy knowledge gaps related to evaluation and outcomes assessment, and provided educational resources, including the development of a SMA Best Practices Clinical Evaluator Toolkit. Toolkit content synthesizes evidence and covers a breadth of issues relevant to practice, including background on SMA and the drug pipeline; therapist roles and responsibilities related to research; clinical and research evaluation; and useful materials and resources for additional education, training, and professional development. Surveys and telephone interviews were conducted with physical therapists managing individuals with SMA to determine their SMA practice experience and educational needs. Their recommendations, along with synthesized SMA research evidence, provided input into toolkit content development and assisted in identifying gaps important to address. Impact was assessed over time via utilization feedback surveys downloaded by clinicians across various settings. Open-ended feedback supported beneficial use of the toolkit for clinicians and researchers working with individuals with SMA. Next steps should include timely dissemination to bring this resource and others into practice in a systematic, efficacious, and engaging manner. As the treatment landscape for SMA evolves, the therapist's role in multidisciplinary care and research is of great importance, and a call to action for the development, implementation, evaluation and reporting of informed knowledge using evidence-based knowledge translation strategies is critical. Impact: Partnership among patient advocacy groups, industry collaborators, and key opinion leaders/experts can optimize essential resource development to address the knowledge gap for best practices in physical therapy. This partnership model can be replicated for other diseases, providing an efficient way to support clinical trial readiness and target early development of evidence-based content and resources related to both research and best practice clinical evaluation for physical therapist researchers, clinicians, and patients. While identifying knowledge gaps and resource development are initial steps toward change in SMA practice, a rapidly changing rehabilitation outlook warrants a call to action for enhanced efforts aimed at improving rehabilitation evaluation, assessment, and care for this population. It is critical to forge a timely path forward for development, implementation, and sustainability of effective knowledge translation to practice for SMA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpzac108
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • Best Practices
  • Clinical Trial Readiness
  • Knowledge Translation
  • Physical Therapist
  • Rare Disease
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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