Improving Prosthetic Legs with Advanced Ankles
Though we do it every day, walking is a more complicated action than you may think. It involves multiple joints and muscles groups that have to work together to keep you from falling. When part of the system is removed, as is the case with amputees, one is much more likely to fall. Researchers at Michigan Technological University are hoping to change that with a new prosthetic leg design.
Right now you can find some prosthetic feet and legs which include microprocessors to point the toes up and down when needed. While that movement definitely helps, natural ankles also roll the feet from side to side as we walk. To mimic that motion, the Michigan researchers added sensors to the bottom of the prosthetic foot and connected them to a microprocessor, which then controls the system for rolling the foot. Importantly, the mechanical system is not in the foot itself, but was raised into the leg and uses a cable system to control the foot. This reduces weight and makes it easier to use.
At present the statistics show that almost two thirds of all above-the-knee amputees will fall a year, compared to just one third of all adults over 65. Hopefully this new technology will change that.