Deborah Thorpe, PT, PhD

Deborah Thorpe, PT, PhD

Associate Professor
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 Background & Interests

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

Development of a national patient-reported outcomes registry for 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

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

Current Funded

Testing novel measures of community function and participation in adults with cerebral palsy
Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation  (3/1/15-2/28/17)
Role:  Principal Investigator

Towards Transition and Self-Management: Assessing the Needs of Individuals with Cerebral Palsy in North Carolina
Foundation for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (12/1/14-11/31/15)
Role: Co-Principal Investigator

UIC Obesity Research Project on Prevalence, Adaptations and Knowledge Translation in Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities from Diverse Race/Ethnic Backgrounds
U.S. Department of Education, NIDRR2  (10/1/12 - 9/30/15)
Role: Consultant


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

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

BS, Physical Therapy, University of New England, 1988

BS, Elementary Education, West Virginia University, 1979


PHYT 750- Psychosocial Aspects of Disability

PHYT 820:  Advanced Patient Management I  (Cerebral Palsy)

PHYT 726:  Exercise Perscription/PHYT 730: Biomechanics (Aquatic Therapy)

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

Selected Publications

Please see this PubMed Link for list of peer review publications

Most Recent Refereed Papers
DiBiasio P, Boone K, Drogos J, Husted C, Stephens H, Thorpe D.  An Aquatic Exercise Program for an Adolescent with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. The Journal of Aquatic Physical Therapy. 2015, 23(1):  pgs 3-13.

Henderson RC, Henderson BA, Kecskemethy HH, Hildago S, Nikolova BA, Sheridan K, Harcke HT, and Thorpe DE.  Adaptation of the lateral distal femur DXA scan technique to adults with disabilities. Journal of Clinical Densitometry, 2014; Jan;18(1):102-8.        PMID: 24932899

David FJ, Baranek GT, Wiesen C, Mao A, Thorpe DE.  Coordination of precision grip in 2-6 year-old children with autism spectrum disorders compared to children developing    typically and children with developmental disabilities.  Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. December 31, 2012; 6 (122): 1-13.       PMID: 23293589

Balemans ACJ,  Fragala-Pinkham MA, Lennon N, Thorpe DEBoyd RN, O’Neil ME,  Bjornson K, Becher JG, Dallmeijer AJ. A Systematic Review of the Clinimetric Properties of  Laboratory and Field based Measures of Aerobic and Anaerobic Fitness in Children with Cerebral Palsy.  Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2012; 94: 287-301.  PMID: 23022091

Errickson SP, Maloney AE, Thorpe D, Giuliani C, and Rosenberg AM. Dance Dance Revolution Used by 7 and 8 Year Olds to Boost Physical Activity: Is Coaching Necessary for Adherence to an Exercise Prescription? Games for Health Journal: Research,   Development, and Clinical Applications. 2012; 1(1): 45-50

Thorpe DE.  Expanding the measures of physical capacity in cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol, 2012; 54(7):  585-586.      PMID: 22448650

Professional Societies

American Physical Therapy Association
     Section Memberships: Aquatic, Pediatric 

North Carolina Physical Therapy Association

American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine


Richard Ruoti Research Award for Excellence, Aquatic Therapy Section, American Physical Therapy Association, 2015

Anniversary Award, Section on Pediatrics, American Physical Therapy Association, 2013