Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Leg Up for Crutch Design

Revisiting crutch design ...

"Crutches have been around since the Pharaohs ruled Egypt some 5,000 years ago. You might think that 50 centuries would have given the medical device adequate time to evolve. After all, we aren't building pyramids the same way anymore.

But crutch design seems to be improving at a glacial pace. The under-arm tune-fork shape most common in the U.S. is regarded as a World War II era relic in Europe, where the forearm crutch is more common. While the forearm crutch has some advantages -- most importantly in removing the object from the underarm area, where it can cause nerve damage -- both designs could be improved upon.

As currently designed, crutches require twice as much energy to maneuver as normal walking. A team of mechanical engineers at Stanford who have studied the problem say that users of under-arm crutches are essentially doing a push-up with every step. Moreover, under-arm crutches can actually cause injury through repetitive stress on the hands, wrists, and arms. These crutches can also damage the Brachial Plexus, the network of nerves that control the muscles of the shoulder and arm."   continued ...   (Via Yahoo Finance)

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