Plunge Into Mobility

Patients with SCI plunge into the water and electrify limbs for mobility assistance and exercise

After receiving a grant from the Paralyzed Veterans of America Education Foundation, the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopaedic Institute (UMROI) in Baltimore, Md., developed an educational workshop that gets patients with spinal-cord injury (SCI) water and robotic mobility assistance.

The workshop welcomed 66 patients with SCI, physicians and professional students for the first time April 4–5 for a series of keynote addresses, practice demonstrations and panel discussions.

“The conceptual framework of the conference was how to use aquatics and robotics as some tools to increase functional activity,” says Paula Geigle, PT and PhD of UMROI. “So, the conference was really about wellness and the wellness incorporated into your daily routine. We had vendors that actually provided different products that could help with this concept of wellness and movement.”

The attendees with SCI were able to try out the products, which included special swimsuits, devices to assist walking, standing and transferring, robotic leg devices and hand-crank cycles. These demonstrations taught patients and physicians how to incorporate the use of such products and aquatic exercise in a patient’s home workout routine.

“Each session had some clear outcomes. So, not only did each individual with an SCI get into the devices or the pool, practitioners who had never been able to utilize the devices or been in the pool and had a lot of training in aquatics got to get in and practice as well,” Geigle says.

Attendees also learned about the four major benefits of using aquatics and robotics for rehab and exercise: cardiovascular fitness, bowel and bladder function, pulmonary capacity and quality of life.

“Some of the robots and the pool may give them the support, from the buoyancy of the water or the support from the actual robotic device, that they can actually continue to get their heart rate and cardiovascular system challenged,” Geigle says. “… Being upright and vertical, that increases and stimulates bowel and bladder function, it increases just breathing as far as pulmonary capacity and then the overall quality of life is the other piece. That they can actually enjoy being active in movement in the community.”


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