Deborah Thorpe, PT, PhD, PCS

Deborah Thorpe, PT, PhD, PCS

Division of Physical Therapy
Department of Allied Health Sciences
3006 Bondurant Hall, CB# 7135
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7135
OFFICE: (919)843-8679 FAX: (919)966-3678

Email address:

Research Web site: PROJECT ACT NOW


Research Background & Interests

Effects of aquatic-based intervention on fitness and functional outcomes in children, adolescents adults with cerebral palsy

Development of lifespan community-based fitness programs for persons with developmental disabilities

Effects of aging on fitness and functional outcomes in persons with developmental disabilities

Long term retention of cognitive strategies used to learn novel motor skills in children with cerebral palsy

Application of motor learning principles to physical therapy interventions for persons with cerebral palsy.



Current Research

The effects of aquatic resistive exercise on fitness, function and participation of persons with cerebral palsy across the lifespan. (Project ACT NOW)

The effects of aging on adults with cerebral palsy.

The effects of aquatic exercise compared to treadmill training on fitness and function in adolescents with cerebral palsy.



PhD, Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University, 1998, Pediatric Physical Therapy

MS, West Virginia University, 1983, Early Childhood Motor Development and Motor Learning

BS, University of New England,1988, Physical Therapy

BS, West Virginia University,1979, Elementary Education



PHYT 820:  Advanced Patient Management I  (Cerebral Palsy)

PHYT 726:  Exercise Perscription (Aquatic Therapy)

HMSC 701: Scientific Basis for Human Movement (Motor Learning)


Selected Publications

Referred Papers/Articles

Thorpe, DE. The role of fitness in health and disease: State of adults with cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 2009; 51, (s4): 52-58.

David FJ, Baranek GT, Giuliani CA, Mercer VS, Thorpe DE. Grip and Load for Coordination during Precision Grip in Persons with Autism. Accepted with revisions. Resubmitted to Pediatric Physical Therapy. 2009; 21(2): 205-211.

D.A. Rubin, R.G. McMurray, D.E. Thorpe, J.S. Harrell, and A.C. Hackney. Vigorous physical activity and cytokines in adolescents. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2008; 103(5): 495-500.

Dusing SC, Thorpe DE, Poe M, Rosenberg A, Mercer V, Escolar M. Gross Motor Development of Children with Hurler Syndrome Post Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant. Physical Therapy, 2007; 87(11): 1433-40.

Fowler E, Kolobe T, Damiano D, Thorpe D, Brunstromm J, Coster W, Henderson R, Morgan D, Pitetti K, Rimmer J, Rose J, Stevenson R. APTA Pediatric Research Summit: Promotion of Fitness & Prevention of Secondary Complications for Children with Cerebral Palsy. Physical Therapy. 2007; 87(11): 1495-1510.

Ondrak K, Thorpe DE. Physiologic responses of adolescents with cerebral palsy when walking on land and in water: A case series. Aquatic Physical Therapy, 2007; 15(2): 10-15.

Dusing SC, Thorpe DE, Mercer V, Rosenberg A, Poe M, Escolar M. Temporal and Spatial Gait Characteristics of Children with Hurler Syndrome, Post Umbilical Cord Blood Transplant. Physical Therapy. 2007; 87(8): 978-985.

Dusing SA, Thorpe DE. A Normative Sample of Temporal and Spatial Gait Parameters in Children using the GAITRite Electronic Walkway. Gait and Posture, 2007; 25: 135-139.

Dusing SC, Thorpe DE, Rosenberg A, Mercer V, Escolar M, Gross Motor Abilities in Children with Hurler Syndrome. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 2006; 48: 927-930.

Thorpe DE, Reilly MA, Case LE. The Effects of an Aquatic Resistive Exercise Program on Ambulatory Children with Cerebral Palsy. The Journal of Aquatic Physical Therapy. 2005; 13(2): 21-34.

Thorpe DE, Dusing SC, Moore CG. Repeatability of Temporo-Spatial Gait Measures in Children using the GAITRite Electronic Walkway. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2005; 86(12); 2342-2346.

Dusing SC, Mercer VS, Yu B, Reilly M, Thorpe DE. Trunk position in supine of infants born preterm and at term: An assessment using a computerized pressure mat. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2005; 17(1): 2-10.

Huang HJ, Mercer VS, Thorpe DE, Effects of different concurrent cognitive tasks on temporal-distance gait variables in children. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2003; 15(2):105-113.

Mehta TB, Thorpe DE, Freburger JK. Development of a survey to assess backpack use and neck and back pain in seventh and eighth graders. Pediactr Phys Ther. 2002; 14(4): 171-184.

Thorpe DE, Valvano JA. The effects of knowledge or performance and cognitive strategies on motor skill learning in children with cerebral palsy. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2002; 14(1): 2-5.

Thorpe DE, Reilly MA. The effect of aquatic resistive exercise on lower extremity strength, energy expenditure, functional mobility, balance, and self-perception in an adult with cerebral palsy; A retrospective case report. The Journal of Aquatic Physical Therapy. 2000; 8(2): 18-24.

Thorpe DE, Foxworth JL. The Use of Aquatic Resistive Exercise for a patient with anterior knee pain. Physical Therapy Case Reports. 2000; 3(3): 114-119.

Thorpe DE, Baker CP. Addressing Cultural Competence in Health Care Education. Pediatr Phys Ther. 1995; 7(3): 143-144.


Professional Societies

North Carolina Physical Therapy Association

North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA)

American Physical Therapy Association Aquatic Section

American Physical Therapy Association Pediatric Section

American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine