Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Invictus Games about Sport, but Also a Showcase for Some High-Tech Prosthetics

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Invictus Games about Sport, but Also a Showcase for Some High-Tech Prosthetics

Article excerpt

Invictus Games showcase high-tech prosthetics


TORONTO - The Invictus Games in Toronto are not only focusing attention on military veterans and the life-altering injuries they have suffered, but the event is also shining a spotlight on some cutting-edge technology that allows them to compete and go forward with their everyday lives.

From bionic prosthetics to "smart" braces that return mobility to those who have lost a limb or injured their spine, there has been an explosion of innovative assistive devices aimed at improving the lives of both soldiers injured in combat or training accidents and civilians who have become disabled through trauma or disease.

Retired master cpl. Mike (Megatraun) Trauner is among those being helped by technological advances in the rehab devices field, in his case an "intelligent" lower limb prosthetic that uses high-tech sensors that anticipate and help him execute his movements.

In December 2008 ,Trauner was part of a 200-man foot patrol in Afghanistan, when he was caught in a blast from a remote-controlled IED that blew off parts of both legs, shattered the bones in his left arm and hand and sent shrapnel rocketing into his eyes.

In an instant, his life was irrevocably altered in "every aspect you can imagine," said the 19-year veteran, a member of the 3rd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, Canadian Light Infantry.

"When I got injured, everything's taken away from you -- everything from walking to standing to running to sitting," said Trauner, 38, of Pembroke, Ont. "The list goes on and on."

He and his wife, Leah Cuffe, had to move to a "wheelchair-friendly" home and he traded his vehicle for one that was wheelchair accessible and operated with hand controls.

But technology -- in the form of prosthetics made by German-based company Ottobock -- has given him back his life.

Trauner wears an Ottobock X3 prosthetic on his left residual limb, which was amputated above the knee, that contains a microprocessor that mimics the movements of the missing joint.

"I'm walking and it thinks as I'm walking," he explained. "It's almost like it's artificial intelligence. It knows what I'm doing all the time, so it makes it very safe to walk."

For his right leg, which was amputated below the knee, he dons an Ottobock Harmony prosthetic that doesn't incorporate a microprocessor, as he's able to bend the knee naturally.

In all, the devices set him back more than $130,000, but their benefits are priceless.

"They give me the ability to basically be human again," said Trauner, who competed this week at the Invictus Games, coming fifth in hand-cycling and taking double-gold in stationary rowing, both sports performed without his prosthetics.

But day to day, "I use my legs for pretty much everything you can imagine a regular person would use their legs for," he said. "They give me the option to do what I choose to do."

Dr. Steven Dilkas, co-chief medical officer for the Invictus Games, said much of the rehab technology now being used for the civilian population was initially developed for the military.

"I think the technical advances have certainly opened a lot of doors in terms of rehabilitation and recovery and reintegration into society," said Dilkas, a specialist in amputee rehabilitation and sports medicine at West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto. …

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