Bionics in the news: Exoskeletons and a basketball player
Can a former basketball teammate help an old friend walk again? With the help of Berkley Bionics, a 7 foot tall orthopaedic surgeon hopes to do just that for former teammate and a pro basketball player Mike Williams. The 6’9″ Williams was working as a security guard when he was paralyzed by a gunshot wound in November 2009.
Exoskeletons are explained by Dr. Gene Emmer, PhD on his website. He says: “I believe that exoskeletons are among the most significant medical breakthroughs in my lifetime…Four exoskeleton manufacturers, from three different continents, are rushing products to the market. Many wheelchair users will soon have the opportunity to walk for the first time years…To be sure, the first generation of exoskeletons will not be ideal. These exoskeletons are slow and bulky. The first exoskeletons will also be extremely expensive and priced too high for most wheelchair users to enjoy. But it will not be long until progress is made and second, third and fourth generation exoskeletons are developed which will be lighter, faster and less expensive.”
The bionic devices are like strap-on leg braces with sensors and input devices to help orchestrate a walking stride. They are extremely expensive. eLegs by Berkeley Bionics, likely won’t be sold commercially until 2013, after scientific testing is finished. An Israeli company, Argo Medical Technologies Ltd., makes a similar version called ReWalk. They will be sold starting January 2011 to rehabilitation centers worldwide.
Exoskeletons should be considered by attorneys when working with life care planners who will project future medical needs for plaintiffs with SCI.