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Amputee builds more flexible and responsive prosthetic limbs

Shared by Ana Duarte on 2019-06-26 11:55

About the solution

Van got his left leg severed below the knee, in 1976, in a water-skiing accident. At the hospital, he was given a wood-and-rubber leg and sent home. Since he didn’t like this solution, Van became obsessed with creating a better prosthetic leg.

After doing some research, as a student at the Northwestern University Medical School Prosthetic-Orthotic Center, he realised that most prosthetics were designed within the cosmetic envelope — a prosthetic foot resembled the human foot. Which means that there was no energy to propel a leg.

So he learned from vaulting, the spring of a diving board and the C-shape of a Chinese sword his father owned. With this in mind, he started imagining a prosthetic that would enable the user to jump and land.

The inventor said he came to realise the mistakes of other prosthetics manufacturers. “You can’t function unless you have a power source”. He considered that ligaments where the muscle energy is stored, and studied the tendons of porpoises, kangaroos and cheetahs, noting how the cheetah’s hind leg landed and compressed, and the elastic nature of it.

Van’s design was also inspired by the C-shape of a cheetah’s hind leg. He needed to build a device using light but durable and strong materials, that would offer energy return.

This led to the creation of Flex-Foot, a line that includes many designs of prosthetics for a range of users made of carbon graphite (carbon graphite is stronger than steel and lighter than aluminium). One of the designs, the Cheetah, was intended for elite athletes and has been used by paralympic gold-medalists.

Van’s gadgets are responsive and more flexible, allowing athletes to use them without compromising their performance.

Van quit his job and founded his own company in 1984, Flex-Foot Incorporated, to produce and sell these devices. He holds several patents.

Adapted from: https://nyti.ms/2FzsMDa

More info: https://bit.ly/2YkwZlO

This solution shall not include mention to the use of drugs, chemicals or biologicals (including food); invasive devices; offensive, commercial or inherently dangerous content. This solution was not medically validated. Proceed with caution! If you have any doubts, please consult with a health professional.

About the author

Van Phillips, born in 1954, in the USA, is an amputee who developed Flex-Foot, his own brand of prosthetic limbs. This device consists of a workable artificial leg made from carbon graphite.

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