More than one million people undergo an amputation on a lower limb each year – one every 30 seconds. More often than not, new patients are fit with prosthetics that may not be in tune with how they walked before surgery.
Integrative physiology Ph.D. student Michael Isaacs wants to help. “People have to compensate for their prosthesis, and doing so for the duration of their lives can cause more health problems,” said Isaacs. “If you give people a smart prosthetic that is adaptable, it will help them in the long term.”
Isaacs started his research by looking for answers to some basic questions: Why do humans walk the way they do? Why do they choose the speed they do? Why do they settle in between fast and slow?
“We were curious about how prosthetics function and what they do for the person using them; do they really get them walking like they’re used to?” he said. “Can we measure how people walk in a simple way, and can engineers apply what we learn to prosthetics?”
Back to Geometry
“Not many researchers have taken a geometric approach to measuring the economy of how people move their bodies from one step to the next. We’re measuring how people interact with the ground to quantify what the person is doing when walking,” he said.
Isaacs hopes that his findings and analytics will impact people on a larger scale.
“There are a lot of diseases and conditions that affect walking in humans, and we think [our research] has some use in diagnostics and rehabilitation strategies in the near future,” said Isaacs.