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Another Step Forward for Cerebral Palsy Robotics

Flagstaff, AZ — On the heels of similar research and development by New York’s Columbia University, Northern Arizona University is developing and testing a robotic device of its own that significantly improves the walking ability of children with cerebral palsy.


The device uses sensors and motors to compensate for crouch gait, a condition commonly affecting people with cerebral palsy.  In crouch gait, legs bend too far at the knee, making a normal walking gait difficult if not impossible, at least without braces, crutches and such.


In tests on seven youths with cerebral palsy ages five through 19, the robotic exoskeleton device attached to the ankle and knee appeared to enable independent walking in its young users.


Cerebral palsy is marked by impaired motor function and muscle control.  It affects over 750,000 U.S. children and adults.


Motorized robotic exoskeletons may become the next big thing in treating crouch gait in kids with cerebral palsy, despite their currently prohibitive expense of thousands each.


But experts believe that as more such devices eventually hit the market, competition will bring costs down—and that the short-term device costs are far less than longtime surgery costs.


Study participant wearing a robotic exoskeleton. Credit: Northern Arizona University