Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder caused by damage to immature, developing brain. While children with the condition can still walk, this usually causes crouch gait, or overbending of the knees. This abnormality entails a need for more strength and energy than of the "healthy" people.
Moreover, walking can be a challenge as they grow up for this means they'll become heavier as well, consequently putting more strain to their muscles. This sometimes lead to complete inability to walk. In fact, children with cerebral palsy have only a 50 per cent chance of being able to walk during their adult life.
And while some clinics have already utilized bulky robotic devices to provide support on these children, such can't still be used at home for them to practice on. However, new robotic exoskeletons might just change that.
“If we can change crouch gait at a young age, we can maintain mobility into adulthood. Using the exoskeleton will only be temporary. We want them to be able to walk without it,” says Thomas Bulea at the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland developed a new completely mobile device specifically for people with this disorder. With the help of the exoskeleton's sensors, its actuators would know when it should give a muscular boost as the child walks. This not only eases the strain of every step but improves their posture as well.
They've even tested this on seven children and teenagers (5-19 years old) with cerebral palsy. And guess what? None of them fell while using it! What's more? One already noticed some improvements after just six sessions! The result is as good or even better than of corrective surgery which ranges from tendon lengthening to bone fusion!
“There are so many children around the world who can be affected by technology like this,” says Sunil Agrawal at Columbia University in New York, who also works on exoskeletons for cerebral palsy.
Could this be their chance for a better walk in life?
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