Thanks to advanced technologies, those who wear prosthetic and orthotic devices are now able to break previous activity boundaries. People with amputations now have prosthetic devices that allow them to engage in and function more effectively in a wider range of daily activities, exercise, sports, and even extreme sports, such as long-distance snowshoeing and ice climbing.
Comparative research into the effectiveness of advanced prosthetic and orthotics technologies is the focus of the current special issue of Technology and Innovation-Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors-. All of the articles in this special issue are available Open Access.
"Comparative effectiveness research on prostheses and orthotics is sparse, so potential benefits of newer technologies are typically slow to emerge," said M. Jason Highsmith, assistant professor at University of South Florida's School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences. His editorial discussing advancements in evaluating the benefits of prosthetics and orthotics using comparative effectiveness research appears in this special edition along with 12 studies.
According to Highsmith, evidence-based analysis incorporates three elements: patient input, clinical expertise, and best evidence. In papers appearing in this special issue, those analytical elements are included, especially in those studies reporting on extreme recreational pursuits that are evaluated in terms of both human functional performance and innovative technology prosthetic concepts for managing rigorous environments, climates, and terrain.
For example, one study provides details on the design of adjustable ankle units on prosthetic devices that allow the user to adjust the flexion of a prosthetic foot in sub-freezing temperatures quickly, to allow for variable terrain and faster clothing changes. The prosthetic ankle is designed to "tolerate significant abuse, ice, and water."
Another study outlines determinations of energy expenditure measurements during adventure-type activities for those with lower extremity amputations. The study gathers data on energy expenditure through use of a multifunction prosthesis during a snowshoeing trek and vertical ice climbing in an arctic survival course in Denali, AK.
Fitness training for those wearing prostheses is also examined. For instance, the design and performance of a device allowing above-the-elbow amputees to do push-ups during a workout was examined and compared to the pushup performance of a non-amputee. The pushup device was designed by an amputee participant.