Thu. Nov 21st, 2019

U of L Medicine engineered a treadmill to help children with spinal cord injuries

By Jessica Kisling —

Since 2012 the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) have been using locomotive means for children’s physical therapy. Due to a previous lack of resources, children had been using machines designed for adults.

“This project is an example of what happens when we have collaboration among our faculty, our staff, private industry and philanthropists to make sure that the knowledge that’s created inside out four walls doesn’t stay there,” said President Neeli Bendapudi.

During the last seven years, a team of engineers and spinal cord specialists teamed together and developed the technology needed to better aid children in their recovery from spinal cord injuries. They have since made a treadmill and harness suited for adolescents, meaning the children no longer have to use the bigger machines.

With this newly developed treadmill, the doctors and researchers at U of L are giving children a better chance at regaining mobility. Many times before accidents would leave the patient paralyzed, or partially paralyzed, and unable to walk.

The new treadmill includes a smaller and more adaptable harness as well as a smaller tread that better suits the children’s bodies. The new machine also positions the trainer at a more convenient location so they are closer to the patient while not placing significant physical strain on them. In addition, the designers included a movable tower to help children out of their wheelchairs and onto the treadmill.

All of the new pediatric treadmill advantages for both children and trainers includes:

  • Suspension tower that is located behind the child on the treadmill so therapists can more easily and directly engage with the child.
  • Narrower tread, focusing the child’s steps and bringing trainers closer to the child’s legs and feet.
  • Trainers’ seats are more appropriately positioned closer to the child and are adjustable to accommodate trainers of different heights.

“Such improvements open up other possibilities to play and engage and help a child get back on the development track,” said Professor Andrea Behrman, head of the project and department of neurological surgery.

Behrman and Tommy Roussel led the research and development over the past seven years. The main donors for the treadmill are Kosairs, WHAS charities, the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation and the Independent Pilots Association  foundation.

The new treadmill and harness are now used at the Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville and other facilities across the country.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Louisville 

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