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Enhancing Human Metabolic Economy in Stair Climbing via an Elastic Crutch Mechanism

By Madalyn S. Berns -~no&quot, B. S. Bioengineering, Hugh Herr, Daniel Frey, David E. Hardt and Madalyn S. Berns


Crutching provides a significant increase in mobility for those with limited walking ability. While level ground walking with crutches has been studied in many differ-ent forms, stair climbing is a more energetically taxing activity and the upper arm and shoulder strength required is not always available in weaker or severely injured patients. We posit that the introduction of parallel springs spanning the elbow joint will improve the crutching experience by helping patients attain a metabolic reduction compared to unassisted locomotion. Here, we present a foundation for achieving metabolic reduction with joint-spanning elastic elements. Our approach includes three parts. First, we present an augmented crutch design with an elbow spring that can be modified with different stiffnesses. Second, we put forth a clinical testing protocol in which we measure metabolic econ-omy via the pulmonary gas exchange technique (Vo2avg). Simultaneously recording electromyographic (EMG) signals from the primary active muscles provides a neu-romuscular interpretation of the crutching activity not captured by the black-bo

Year: 2011
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