Thursday, 30 October 2008

Robotics and rehabilitation

The 25th of November I was invited in Italy in Lucca to lecture on the use of vibration as an exercise modality in a conference on strength training organised by the local USL. Together with me and other speakers, Prof. Marco Bove and Prof. Morasso from the University of Genova were invited to present on co-ordinative aspects of training. I really enjoyed their presentations and learnt a lot about areas that could be investigated with regards to strength training.

Prof. Bove in particular, lectured on aspects of co-ordination and how co-ordination can be affected by short term limb immobilisation. In one of the studies conducted by his research group they found alterations in co-ordination of arm-hand movements after immobilising healthy subjects in a splint for up to 12hours. This aspect is very relevant to everyone that works in sport. We all know that athletes are very often injured and put in splints for days sometimes and most of the assessments are conducted on their ability to produce force. I am convinced that the assessment of inter and intra-muscular co-ordination is a necessary aspect to evaluate before deciding if an athlete is fit to return to normal training. The use of Electromyography and specific tasks can be the way forward to make sure that the athlete is not only able to produce force in simple controlled tasks, but also has recovered the normal co-ordination patterns to avoid the re-occurrence of injury. I suggest the readers to download the article from Prof. Bove’s group and think about the relevance to sport. In one of my next posts I will present some examples of how to use Electromyography and Dynamometry to analyse simple and complex movements and identify useful information for assessing athletes and for planning training interventions. At the Olympic Medical Institute we use a lot the integration of surface EMG and dynamometry to assess and drive the rehabilitation process.

Prof. Morasso discussed the use of robotics to assess and train individuals in specific motor tasks. His work mainly deals with clinical cases, but some applications of robotics can definitively help Sports Scientists. He presented his latest work on a device called “braccio di ferro” a new robotic workstation for neurological rehabilitation. It has been designed by having in mind the range of forces and the frequency bandwidth that characterize the interaction between a patient and a physical therapist, as well as a number of requirements that we think are essential for allowing a natural haptic interaction: back-driveability, very low friction and inertia, mechanical robustness, the possibility to operate in different planes, and an open software environment, which allows the operator to add new functionalities and design personalized rehabilitation protocols. Braccio di Ferro is an open system and, in the spirit of open source design, is intended to foster the dissemination of robot therapy. The article is available here:

You can see some videos here:

This further support my view that we should interact more with other disciplines and  definitively we should look at robotics for the next generation of training and rehabilitation devices.



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