February 2012

Disney Deems Segways Unsafe for Park Visitors with Disabilities

Disney Off-Road Segways

Segways allow users with impaired mobility to interact with others at eye-level, as well as to be perceived as able-bodied, not disabled. As their popularity grows, however, so do the statistics on injuries associated with them. Last spring, new ADA regulations went into effect that required companies to accommodate power mobility devices like Segways, provided their use did not pose a danger to others, but safety concerns continue to restrict them from being used in many places–and Disneyland is one such place.

Tina Baughman, who has muscular dystrophy, recently lost a three-year battle for the right to use her customized Segway when visiting the Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. Baughman sued Disney in 2007 after the park barred her from using her Segway, telling her to either rent a four-wheeled scooter or a wheelchair. In 2010, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled in Disney’s favor. This ruling may have been due to a technicality.

Disney Segway training

According to the original lawsuit, Baughman never used a wheelchair, and Disney was required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to allow patrons to use a “mobility device of choice.” However, the judge noted that Baughman had had prior lawsuits–which were settled–in which she stated that she was confined to a wheelchair. The judge dismissed the claim that her attorney, prominent disabilities rights attorney David Geffen, accidentally used the language in the 2007 lawsuit that was used in other similar cases. “The court simply will not allow Ms. Baughman to play fast and loose with the facts,” the judge wrote.

In the lawsuit, Disney’s attorney, Daniel Fears, maintained that Segways are dangerous. The Segway is a two-wheeled, electric, self-balancing device that uses gyroscopes to remain upright and is controlled by the direction in which the rider leans. The rider leans in either direction he or she chooses by using a thin handlebar attached to a pole. The device can go as fast as 12 miles per hour, with no steering wheel or brakes. Fears stated that Segways should not be allowed in a crowded theme park where there are a lot of children and elderly people.

“And I need not remind the court that the owner of the company fell off a cliff on a Segway and died,” Fears stated. In September 2010, Segway company owner James Heselden died when he apparently drove a Segway off a cliff.

Disney Segways

An indignant Geffen stated, “Just to be clear, what I heard Disneyland saying is that they want a business entity telling a person what mobility device they can use when they come to their place,” he said. “They want to be able to take away a mobility device and say, ‘You can use a wheelchair, but you must use our wheelchair. You can use a mobility device, but you must use our own mobility device at Disneyland.’ You don’t want businesses involved in that very, very personal choice of deciding what mobility device best suits somebody’s needs.”

Disneyland even offers Segway tours of its park. Despite this, Disneyworld in Orlando, FL has also prevailed in lawsuits over Segway use on its premises. In Tina Baughman’s case, wording in her claim allowed the judge to side with Disney. But as Segways grow in popularity, especially when used by veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is hard to see that the public will support Disney’s decision to forbid them.

Source:
courthousenews.com/2012/01/16/43084.htm

Images: news.cnet.com
srsounds.com
hotels.about.com

Football Coach Doug Blevins Creates Super Bowl Stars from His Wheelchair

kicking coach doug blevins with adam vinatieri

Many people would be surprised to know that a man with cerebral palsy played a role in making the New England Patriots the Super Bowl Dynasty it is today. That man would be Doug Blevins, who spent a year training former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, now an NFL great thanks to a man in a wheelchair who loves football.

Even as a child, Doug Blevins was obsessed with football. He spent much of his time studying kickers and punters, believing there was a place in the sport for someone who understood them as he did.

He wrote letters to NFL coaches, asking for advice. Only one replied–Dallas Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry. Landry sent Blevins stacks of plays and books and notes from his coaches. Blevins absorbed it all like a sponge. Eventually, he became a kicking advisor to the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and the Patriots.

coach doug blevins with kicker cameron starke

Blevins’ and Vinatieri’s paths nearly missed each other. Vinatieri sent him videos of his kicking, a desperate plea for help after getting no offers when he left South Dakota State. Viewing the tape was a low priority in Blevins’ busy schedule, but Vinatieri was persistent. Blevins finally watched the tape and saw someone with much potential. He invited Vinatieri to his home, and for the next year they worked out at local high school fields until the budding kicking star perfected his form.

Fast forward to 2002, Super Bowl XXXVI. Blevins was in a restaurant when he saw Vinatieri kick the winning 48-yard field goal against the Rams. The sight brought him to tears, because the last play of every single practice with Vinatieri had been a 48-yard field goal. A concerned waiter rushed over to find out what was wrong. Blevins ex-wife assured the waiter he was okay, and that he was crying because he had coached Adam Vinatieri in kicking.

vinatieri super bowl XXXVI field goal

“The guy just thought I was crazy and walked away,” Blevins said, laughing.

Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal in the Patriots’ next Super Bowl, XXXVIII, against the Panthers put the spotlight on the man who made him great. First there were newspaper stories, then a segment on HBO’s Real Sports, followed by an influx of calls from parents whose kids wanted to be kickers. Blevins eventually started a kicking business. He now runs camps and is a motivational speaker, telling all who would listen how a man in a wheelchair helps teams win the Super Bowl.

Source:
thepostgame.com/blog/good-sports/201202/man-wheelchair-who-helped-kick-super-bowl-dynasty

Images:
dougblevinskicking.com
citizen-times.com
mediagallery.usatoday.com

Cab Owners Sued for Lack of Wheelchair Accessible Taxis

chicago taxicabs requiring wheelchair accessibility

The city of Chicago recently sued 15 taxicab owners for non-compliance with the city’s wheelchair accessibility requirements. Under the newly adopted ordinances, taxicab owners with 20 or more medallions must have a minimum of 5% of their fleet operating as wheelchair accessible vehicles. A press release from the mayor’s office stated that a city investigation found that taxicab owners failed to place in service the required number of wheelchair accessible vehicles–despite incentives provided under the new ordinance to place more wheelchair accessible vehicles on the streets.

“We are committed to providing better, more accessible taxi service for disabled Chicagoans,” Mayor Raum Emanuel stated in the release. “Today’s efforts, in conjunction with the taxi reforms passed by City Council this month, mark important steps toward this goal.”

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires transportation services provided by private entities such as cab companies to comply with nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit segregation, exclusion, and unequal treatment of persons with disabilities.

According to the release from the mayor’s office, the city plans to revoke medallion licenses of the vehicles found to be non-compliance. The cases will go before the city’s Department of Administrative Hearings in March.

Rosemary Krimbel, City Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner, said in the release, “Taxicabs are a critical transportation option for people with disabilities living in or visiting Chicago. Today’s actions reflect our commitment to ensure that the rules we have in place to protect the rights of people with disabilities are enforced.”

Source:
nbcchicago.com/news/local/City-Files-Lawsuits-Against-15-Cab-Companies-138272009.html

Image source:
thehandicappedchicagoan.wordpress.com

Ergonomic Wheelchair Seat Offers Comfort, Improved Use

Anatomically Designed Wheelchair designed with shifting pressure points to eliminate bedsores

Switzerland-based EMPA Engineers recently collaborated with r going, a Swiss rehabilitation company, to design an ergonomic seat for electric wheelchair users that will provide a greater range of movement. Ergonomic chairs are designed to confirm to a person’s physical dimensions, allowing them to sit naturally and comfortably for long periods of time, while reducing the risk of pressure ulcers. This is a luxury many wheelchair users don’t have, according to r going founder and ergotherapist, Roger Hochstrasser.

Ergonomic Wheelchair Seat

Wheelchairs don’t have ergonomic seats, thus the user may become uncomfortable after hours of sitting in one. Hochstrasser came up with the idea of designing an ergonomic wheelchair seat to address this problem. He presented his idea to EMPA Engineer Bernard Weisse, with whom he previously worked. The two spent the next 18 months developing the first prototype of the seat in a project funded by the Swiss Confederation’s Commission for Technology and Innovation.

The ergonomic seat features a backrest constructed of movable joints and ribs to simulate the structure of the human torso. The seat rotates and tilts forwards and backwards, allowing the user to change positions as he or she chooses. Researchers from the Institute for Energy and Mobility of the Berne University of Applied Sciences designed the control console that enables an ergotherapist to program the backrest’s movements to allow a user’s sitting position to be changed in optimal fashion.

Ergonomic Wheelchair Seat Back

“Despite this, if anyone should ever feel uncomfortable they can adjust the settings themselves at any time to suit their individual needs,” Weiss explained.

EMPA conducted a test in which subjects at different body weights drove wheelchairs equipped with the new seats down various paths and roadways, as well as over ramps. Then the load capacity of the backrest was evaluated by taking a road trip–complete with a lot of curves–in a vehicle that transports persons with disabilities. Both sets of tests had satisfactory results.

There will be future clinical trials to determine if and to what extent the seat improves the lives of its users and to see if it is universally accepted by wheelchair users in general.

Source:
medgadget.com/2012/01/anatomically-designed-wheelchair-seat-to-improve-user-movement.html

Image Sources:
cdn.medgadget.com

Underwater Treadmill Offers Hope for Paralysis Patients

MTSU Underwater Treadmill for Paralysis

A researcher who was inspired to devise a study of children with cerebral palsy after watching an athlete train on underwater treadmills has now expanded his research to adults with spinal cord injuries.

Professor Don Morgan, director of the Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), found that underwater treadmill training improved strength and endurance in children with cerebral palsy in the study, which ran from 2005 to 2008. Children with cerebral palsy, who typically tire sooner when walking, experienced improved leg strength and efficiency after using the underwater treadmill.

Now a new study at MTSU, this time with adults, is also demonstrating that the underwater treadmill can offer improvement for spinal cord injuries. Conducted by Sandra Stevens, a PhD graduate student from MTSU who also worked with Morgan on the cerebral palsy study, this new study involved 12 adults with incomplete spinal cord injuries. Incomplete spinal cord injuries are those that leave some motor or sensory function. Results have been promising.

Logo for Center for Physical Activity and Health In Youth at Middle Tennessee State University

“Everybody came three times a week for eight weeks, and the intensity of training progressed throughout their training period,” Stevens said. “Overall, everyone progressed significantly.” The participants experienced improved motor function as well as an increase in personal well-being and self-confidence. Most significantly, the treadmill training restored their hopes of regaining their mobility.

Carmen Thompson has been a participant in the study since last August. Paralyzed from the waist down due to a freak accident in 2007, she now gets out of her wheelchair and climbs into a tank filled with water and onto a moving treadmill. Two-pound weights placed around her ankles pull her feet toward the treadmill. Stevens climbs into the tank too, standing behind Carmen to help her feet move. With Stevens’ assistance, Thompson walks about eight minutes at a time on the underwater treadmill, takes a three-minute break and then repeats the process over and over again for an hour, three days each week. It’s a monotonous routine, but well worth the results.

Since the study began, Thompson has experienced sensations in her legs. “About a month into this, while driving home, I could feel something like an electric current when rubbing my legs,” Carmen said. “I called Sandy the first time it happened.”

MTSU Underwater Treadmill for Paralysis Patients

The next remarkable change came when Thompson was able to stand on her walker, outside of the tank. “Being a complete paraplegic, my legs should just give way,” Thompson said. By October, she was able to move her toes during a strength test. “My spinal cord was demolished. Neurologically, I shouldn’t be able to move my feet at all,” she said.

Recently Thompson’s husband Terry came into the house and was shocked to see her standing at the kitchen counter. Said Thompson, “I stood for one-and-one-half to two minutes. That’s not anything we ever dreamed we’d be able to do.”

Thompson’s participation in the study was supposed to last six months. “She has demonstrated enough improvement that she doesn’t want to stop,” Stevens said. “We want to see how long the improvement will continue.”

Source:
dnj.com/article/20120130/NEWS01/201300317

Image sources:
wbir.com
dnj.com
readyk.com

Illegal Handicap Placard Abuse on the Rise in Los Angeles

Illegal Handicap Placard Abuse on the Rise in Los Angeles

When Hollywood cameraman and downtown LA resident Cris Lombardi is not working, he strolls throughout the city, taking pictures along the way. Lately he has been noticing something that struck him as peculiar. Many of the cars parked at meters had handicap placards. On one street, 80 percent of the cars had placards. Lombardi started jotting down his findings on paper as he continued walking down the street. He discovered that an average of 64 percent of the cars parked along six downtown blocks had placards.

Lombardi shared his findings in an email to LA Times reporter Steve Lopez. “Walking the same route every day, one begins to notice details,” he wrote. “On my walk up 4th Street from Hill to Olive, it dawned on me that … nearly all of the parked cars had handicap placards.”

According to Lombardi, the cars were parked at expired meters but they remained ticket-less for the whole day despite a one- or two-hour parking limit. Lombardi also noticed that cars parked on the surrounding streets also had placards. No one was seen getting in or out of a car with a placard, but he suspected that some of the drivers had no disabilities–which meant fewer spaces for drivers with and without disabilities.

One day Lopez accompanied Lombardi on a tour of Bunker Hill. Lopez soon noticed that Lombardi was clearly onto something. Eight out of the 10 cars parked along 4th Street all had placards. The street is on an incline, which would pose a challenge for someone with a disability.

LA Parking Enforcement Cracks Down on Illegal Use of Handicap Parking Placards and Permits

The two men walked down Hope Street. All three of the cards parked on the east side of the street had placards. Lopez saw a man walking to a van with a temporary placard. He asked the guy about his disability. The man told Lopez he had a heart attack and drove away.

The men would find even more cars with placards. Six out of seven cars on 3rd Street all had placards, as did six of the first seven cars on Grand Street. Lopez even noticed placards in three cars across the street. What exactly was going on here?

Lopez set out to find out. He decided to stake out 4th Street and wait for the drivers to return to their cars so he could question them. He made phone calls while he waited, hoping to find an expert who could shed some light on the matter.

A few years ago, UCLA student Jonathan Williams staked out the intersection of 7th and Hope for a week and later reported his findings in a thesis. Williams recalled a driver who got out a van with a disabled placard, loaded boxes onto a cart and then descended a flight of stairs. Now a Seattle traffic consultant, Williams said that California drivers can park at a meter for free and for as long as they like if they have a placard. This makes it too easy for drivers to abuse placards in areas like downtown LA, where parking garage fees can range from $20 to $30.

Handicap Parking Placards are being Misused in LA for Free Parking

According to Vito Scattaglia, Deputy Chief of Investigations for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, placard abuse “runs in the area of 30-40%.” That’s a lot of abuse in a state that issued over 200,000 disabled placards. Scattaglia added that a common scam among drivers is using placards belonging to someone else who legally obtained it. Another scam involves forging doctors’ signatures on placard applications.

It’s not yet known how much placard abuse is costing LA, but according to Jaime de la Vega of the Department of Transportation, $40 million was collected from the city’s 40,000 parking meters in 2011. The city can get substantial revenue from the downtown parking meters, where rates are higher, if they’re not being used by able-bodied people using placards to park for free.

Several cities in the nation have started charging placard holders to park, a move that requires state legislation in California and is met with reluctance from legislators, according to UCLA professor Donald Shoup. He added that the city of Capitola, near Santa Cruz, employs disabled military veterans to police placard abuse.

Placard abuse places an unfair burden on drivers with disabilities, forcing them to compete with freeloaders for parking spaces. Lopez spoke to area merchants who said that the parked cars hurt their business. On the evening of his stakeout, he got the chance to question some of the people who returned to their cars with the placards.

Parking Tickets for Disabled Parking Placard Misuse

A woman getting into a Toyota said she worked at the state office and has respiratory problems. Another woman getting into a Scion claimed she was recovering from leg surgery. Two guys pulled to a parking meter in a placard-bearing Volkswagen. The driver started to put money into the meter but his passenger stopped him, saying something that was inaudible. The two men headed up the steep hill. When Lopez questioned which one had a disability, the passenger smirked and claimed he had a “heart condition.”

Lopez then saw a man limping toward his car. He worked at the state building. He said he had osteoarthritis and was considering getting a hip replacement. Lopez pointed out two parking lots that were closer to his office than the meter–where he parked for free the entire day.

“They’re very expensive,” the man said. No doubt his co-workers without placards know exactly how expensive it is.

As Lopez drove away, he saw a man walking down 4th street. Lopez started in his direction, pen and pad in hand. The man started trotting toward a car with a placard, jumped in and drove off, staring down Lopez as he did.

Source:
latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0125-lopez-disabledparking-20120124,0,933621.column

Image sources:
latimes.com
chicagotribune.com
images.smh.com.au
digitaljournal.com

Smart-e-Pants: Bedsore Prevention for Bedridden, Wheelchair Users

Smart-e-Pants Bedsore Reducing Underwear

“I’ve got the most photographed bum in Edmonton,” Gem Hebert joked after a news conference at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Canada. Researchers were there to unveil custom electric underwear called Smart-e-Pants, which stands for “sensory motor adaptive rehabilitation technology,” developed by a group of Alberta researchers to prevent bed sores and pressure ulcers associated with 24/7 confinement to a wheelchair or bed.

Smart-e-Pants Bedsore Reducing Undergarments

Confined to a wheelchair since last year due to a tumor in her back, Hebert agreed to try out a prototype of the Smart-e-Pants for a few weeks. Every 10 minutes an electrical current would “zap” her buttocks for 10 seconds. The zaps weren’t painful, according to Hebert, and she found the underwear to be comfortable. The electrical current was used to stimulate muscles, allowing blood and oxygen to get to them, thus preventing the bed sores.

Dr. Sean Dukelow demos Smart-e-Pants

“Pressure ulcers are a complicated and unresolved medical issue that needs our attention,” said researcher Vivian Mushahwar, PhD. A senior scholar at the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, Mushahwar was one of a team of experts who worked on the project. Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, along with Alberta Health and Wellness, funded the $5 million project. According to Mushahwar, pressure ulcers can eventually spread to the bone and can be deadly. Actor Christopher Reeve, a quadriplegic as a result of a horse-riding accident, died from complications due to pressure ulcers.

Dr. Vivian Mushahwar explains how Smart-e-Pants prevents bed sores

And pressure ulcers are a financial burden on the Canadian healthcare system, to the tune of $3.5 billion each year. They also cost the U.S. healthcare system about $11 billion per year. Bedridden patients are turned every couple of hours to keep pressure ulcers at bay, according to rehabilitation specialist Dr. Ming Chan, yet they still may develop.

Dr. Ming Chan demos Smart-e-Pants

The estimated cost of the Smart-e-Pants is around $2,000 with the stimulator pack being the largest expense. The underwear costs up to $70 and can be detached from the electrical component for cleaning. The latest prototypes of the underwear look like boxer briefs with front zippers and back pockets that contain eight electrodes.

Smart-e-Pants Electric Device Hip Pack

The Smart-e-Pants has not been shown to harm patients during the pilot tests. Further tests will be conducted to determine its effectiveness at preventing sores. Although its success is not yet proven, plans are underway to mass produce the underwear in Canada and the U.S. Chan anticipates that the custom underwear will be available within another two years.

Smart-e-Pants Electric Device

For a fuller explanation of the new Smart-e-Pants technology and hear how Canadian hospitals are implementing use of the undergarments, watch this video:

Sources:
winnipegfreepress.com/canada/breakingnews/smart-e-pants-could-take-pressure-off-patients-confined-to-beds-wheelchairs-138494184.html
aihealthsolutions.ca/news/2012-02-01.php

Image Sources:
edmontonjournal.com
calgaryherald.com
winnipegfreepress.com
albertahealthservices.ca
edmontonsun.com
edmontonherald.com
news.ualberta.ca

‘Warrior Champions’ Kicks off DC’s ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

Warrior Champions in the DC ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

The ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival recently kicked off its screenings in the District of Columbia at the Washington DC, Greater Washington, and Northern Virginia Jewish Community Centers (JCCs). The nine-day event featured films that promoted awareness about disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism. The festival opened with the documentary film Warrior Champions, a depiction of the lives of four Iraqi War veterans who returned home with life-threatening injuries and dared to dream what many people would deem impossible.

Warrior Champions Opens the DC ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

A Manhattan JCC started the festival four years ago, and it has since spread to other JCCs across the country. Susan Barocas, director of Washington’s DCJCC’s film program, stated all of the JCCs hope “very much that this breaks down stereotypes about people with disabilities.” The festival’s films are not categorically Jewish, but its goals are deeply entrenched in Judaism.

Shooting Beauty in the DC ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

“I think it’s very much part of Jewish values to build community, to be inclusive,” Barocas explained. According to Barocas, the concept behind the festival follows the ideals of tikkun olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world,” by making it a better place for all who live in it. The mission of the festival is to promote community awareness and appreciation of the contributions of people with disabilities.

Shooting Beauty in the DC ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

Warrior Champions tells the story of injured war veterans who valiantly struggle through depression, paralysis and lost limbs to work toward realizing their dream of competing in the 2008 Paralympics Games. According to the Warrior Champions website, the movie “challenges every notion of what it means to be disabled.”

Henry O! in the DC ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival

Other films screened at the festival this year included Shooting Beauty, about a photography program for individuals with disabilities, and a profile of a blind sportscaster in Henry O!.

Check out the trailers from Warrior Champions and Shooting Beauty below:

Sources:
huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/01/video-reelabilities-disab_n_1247130.html
reelabilities.org

Image sources:
huffingtonpost.com
warriorchampions.com
shootingbeauty.org
reelabilitiesatl.org

University Sued for Refusing to Hire Students with Disabilities

University of California student Alex Stern

A University of California student at has filed a lawsuit against UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) over a discriminatory hiring policy that excludes students with disabilities. Global Studies major Alexander Stern filed the lawsuit in last October after discovering that his disability was the reason he had difficulty getting a job through the Disabled Students Program.

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 made it illegal to discriminate against persons with disabilities when hiring. According to Stern, the UCSB online application process does not inquire as to whether an applicant with a disability can perform basic and unskilled jobs, however, applications indicating a disability are automatically flagged and the applicants are denied employment.

“They have an extremely wide and broad definition of disability and you can see that very easily because if you just simply go to their site, press one button indicating that you might have a disability, that’s when the flagging process starts. And from that point on is when you’re denied the jobs,” said Stern.  He added that applicants without disabilities can easily apply for a job.

Stern stated his case in an email to the Bottom Line, UCSB’s newspaper. “A disabled veteran or a cancer patient would be refused so much as consideration for one of these jobs,” he wrote. “One such job is the ‘test proctor’ position, which merely requires the employee to monitor one or a few students to see if they are cheating. Clearly, not each of the 54 million Americans with a disability should be deemed presumptively unqualified for this type of job.”

Before he filed his suit, Stern spoke with the director of the Disabled Students Program, Gary White. “The response I got was shocking,” he said. “The director of the department [White] said that hiring any disabled person represents an additional liability. He said his job was to minimize the potential for liability.”

The courts are currently reviewing Stern’s lawsuit. In the meantime, he has started an online petition which details his complaint. “I’m not asking for affirmative action,” Stern said. “I don’t believe that anyone with a disability should be automatically entitled to a job, nor do I think that they have any more right to that job than a non-disabled person. I simply requested that they not look at one single word tied to their identity: disabled.”

Stern has also started an online petition, which can be found at: http://www.ucdiscrimination.com/

Source:
thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2012/01/uc-disabled-students-program-sued-for-not-hiring-disabled-students

Image source:
thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu

Researchers Study Early Muscle Deterioration Caused by Multiple Sclerosis

Early detection of muscle deterioration allows training and exercise regiments to be put into place to stop fatigue caused by MS.

Recently, researchers have found promising results in diagnosing the onset of muscle deterioration due to multiple sclerosis while in its initial stages. By performing specific tests for leg muscle endurance and gait, researchers have found that the ability to pinpoint the start of any deterioration can be more accurately identified.

Gait observation helps researchers detect early muscle deterioration and fatigue due to multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease in which the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) are damaged by legions to the protective substance called myelin. Myelin is the primary protective tissue for the nerve fibers surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This inflammation causes the damaging of nerve fibers that results in plaques where scar tissue (sclerosis) forms.

Dr. Kalron and researchers from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Multiple Sclerosis Center in the Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, noticed distinct abnormalities in walking patterns in a study including 52 patients in the early stages of MS, and a control group of 28 healthy people. These findings could aid researchers in mapping the progression of multiple sclerosis, which doctors have not yet been able to determine when muscles begin to deteriorate. This is important because intervention programs could slow the rate of muscle deterioration in patients during the early stages of MS as well as improve muscle endurance and balance to hold off the related fatigue that generally goes along with the disease.

Participants underwent multiple forms of basic movement analysis in attempts to measure their levels of muscle endurance. Dr. Kalron stated, “Reduced muscle endurance may be one of the earliest signs of MS and is a common complaint among patients, but it is hard to detect.”  Examples of some of the exercises patients performed during testing included:

  • Gait observation and analysis to determine the patients’ step length, stride width, and overall symmetry of movement.
  • Measuring lower limb muscle strength and endurance by asking participants to straighten/bend knee with max effort and hold the position for at least 30 seconds

Isokinetic dynamometer measure gait study results to improve early detection of measure deterioration by multiple sclerosis

After quantifying the results with an isokinetic dynamometer, the findings were analyzed by doctors. The results showed a definite distinction among participants who were living with MS. According to Dr. Alon Kalron, “Patients in the early stages of MS experienced 40 percent less muscle endurance than their healthy peers.” They appeared to walk with a consistently slower, asymmetrical pattern and tended to have a wider spread of their legs. This adapted stance seems to aid the balance and instability that is caused by muscle fatigue.

By studying gait, patients and their doctors have the opportunity to diagnose the early onset muscle deterioration caused by MS. Although a cure for MS has not yet been discovered, the results can provide improvement to existing programs. By prescribing training and muscle rehabilitation regiments, muscle deterioration and fatigue can be slowed to allow people to maintain their mobility and keep walking as long as possible.

Sources:
aftau.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=15901
zeenews.india.com/news/health/health-news/endurance-tests-can-detect-nerve-disease-early_15419.html

Image Sources:
lusakatimes.com
me.queensu.ca
i01.i.aliimg.com