July 2010

Adaptive Sports in the 2010 Summer X Games

This week is exciting for extreme sports fans at the 2010 Summer X Games 16 held at the L.A. Colisum in Los Angeles, California. This television event is arranged by ESPN and features athletes from across the world competing in various sports.  The 2010 Summer X Games includes categories for BMX, Rally Car Racing, Moto X, and Skateboarding.  Adaptive athletes compete in Moto X Super X Adaptive and the Skateboard Park Adaptive Jam with both wheelchairs and skateboards.

Moto X Racing



Super X is in two divisions for adaptive sports: Limb Loss (i.e. amputee, etc) and Limb Difference (paraplegic, quadriplegic, etc). Attending riders have either been invited by the non-profit AAS, Adaptive Action Sports, or earned their spot by competing at the Extremity Games. The Extremity Games are an X Games style event specifically for athletes living with limb loss, limb difference, and paralysis held in May.  Medals this year at the 2010 Summer X Games adaptive categories are being given out this year in separate paraplegic and amputee categories for the first time.  The motocross event occurred yesterday, and it will be rebroadcast on ESPN today between 2 and 5 pm EST.




The Skateboard Adaptive Jam is set to occur on August 1, 20101 from 12 pm-12:30 pm EST.  Last year featured wheelchair rider Aaron Fotheringham with his famous wheelchair backflip, and this year will be just as exciting.  Contestants compete in a unique setting with millions of fans watching live in person and on television.

The X Games has been annually held every winter and summer since 1995 where every year fans look forward to seeing athlete’s latest moves and tricks as they compete for medals and prize money. In addition to serious competition, X Game fans are also treated to the annual entertainment extravaganza known as X Fest — featuring a music festival, in-person meetings with famous athletes, demos, and other special events.

Would you like to see the adaptive sports X Games events yourself?  Watch ESPN today from 2-5 pm EST for the Adaptive X-finals rebroadcast from yesterday’s event , or tune in August 1 from 12-12:30 to view the live Adaptive Skateboard Park Jam.

Watch Sammie Eramus talk about the 2010 Summ X Games Motocross events below:

Scientists Grow Limb Joints with Stem Cells

In a groundbreaking study, scientists have been able to regrow failing limb joints inside rabbits using their own stem cells. Utilizing a naturally occurring substance called growth factor, the animals were able to regenerate cartilage and bone to create a new joint. Within a month, the rabbits were moving around normally and able to bear the same weight as other animals.


A computer helped create artificial scaffolds that were anatomically the same size and shape as rabbit leg joints. They were infused with the growth factor and implanted into 10 rabbits after their own leg joints had been removed. The stem cells went to the location of the missing joint and regenerated cartilage and bone in two separate layers.

Previous studies were similarly successful by doctors that injected stem cells into the location, but this is the first time that scientists have regenerated a limb joint using harvested stem cells or the animal’s own stem cells. It’s also the first time that an entire joint has been rebuilt with complete use of function.

The study was completed by Professor Jeremy Mao and his team at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York along with colleagues from the University of Missouri and Clemson University in South Carolina.

Prof Mao said: “This is the first time an entire joint surface was regenerated with return of functions including weight bearing and locomotion. Regeneration of cartilage and bone both from the host’s own stem cells, rather than taking stem cells out of the body, may ultimately lead to clinical applications.”

The research will be most beneficial to non-elderly patients when it comes time for human trials to occur. This is due to the months of rehabilitation it would take for the elderly including movement, months of physiotherapy, and bed rest for the joint to grow.  Hip replacements last 15-25 years and can currently be done where elderly patients are able to walk out of the hospital after hip replacement surgery.


Write, Surf Online, or Move a Wheelchair by Sniffing Your Nose


A new method of maneuvering a wheelchair with only your nose has been created using a series of controlled sniffs. This system is also designed to allow users to communicate over the internet or in writing.

How does it work? A sensor is placed at the opening of the nostril that measures changes in air pressure and then translates these electrical signals to a computer with a USB connection where the software takes over from there.

Research was conducted for the new nose controlled wheelchair on 96 able-bodied volunteers and 10 quadriplegics with great results. Everyone navigated a complicated path as well as played video games using the technology. Some users were able to match the speed and accuracy of a joystick.

The nose controlled wheelchair works by measuring a variety of sniffs. A “double sniff in” moves you forward, a “double sniff out” moves you backwards, a “sniff out and then in” implies left, and a “sniff in and then out” implies right. Repeating the command allows for sharper turns.

Three patients trying out the nose controlled wheelchair have a condition called Locked-In Syndrome which reduces all voluntary movement to only being able to blink their eyes, yet they retain full cognitive function. After much practice, these patients were able to communicate with family members. Noam Sobel, an Institute professor of neurobiology in Israel that helped design the nose system explained “”Some wrote poignant messages to their loved ones, sharing with them, for the first time in a very long time, their thoughts and feelings.”

Eye tracking devices already exist for these patients, however the sniff controller has some advantages. For one, it does not rely on stable capture, so bumps will not limit the sniff controller. Also, eye tracking devices require a user to devote their eyes to generating signals instead of maintaining attention elsewhere. Lastly, the cost is only around $350 for the sniff controlled wheelchair and could be considerably less with mass production.

See the nose controlled wheelchair in action below:

See how the sniff device works with writing words here:

See how the sniff controller works with navigating the web below:


Walk Aide Allows Drop Foot Syndrome Patients to Walk Again


The Walk Aide is a revolutionary product that allows people with drop foot syndrome the ability to walk completely unassisted.  This small set of straps placed around the the lower legs sends electrical pulses that activates the nerves and causes the foot to react naturally. The Walk Aide is placed just below the knee and measures where your foot is in space to reply accordingly.

Tina Mann was in a snowboarding accident that caused her to damage her spinal cord.  Doctors gave her a 30% chance of recovery and told her that she would be in a wheelchair the rest of her life.  After 3 months of being completely paralyzed from the waist down and 8 months of total rehabilitation, Tina was finally able to walk with assistance, yet she was never able to lift her feet due to the drop foot syndrome from the injury.

After trying the Walk Aide, Tina is walking normally.  In fact, she rock climbs, does strength training, and even snowboards again.  She no longer has to rely on metal, plastic, or anything to keep her feet in step except her own muscles and the small device on each leg.


The Walk Aide costs around $5,000 and is indeed priceless for those who benefit from it. The cost is covered by insurance on a case by case basis, and Medicaid covers the devices as needed.

View Tina’s story below:

The official Walk-Aide video:

More info available via the WalkAide website at www.walkaide.com

The Americans with Disabilities Act Turns 20


The Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law signed on this day 20 years ago, was created to prohibit discrimination based on disability.  This in turn has resulted in accessibility being a priority for public places including curb cuts on city streets, wheelchair ramps for buildings, braille on hotel doors and elevators, better accessible transportation, wheelchair accessible buses, reasonable accommodations for the disabled that employers must provide, and a guarantee for so many people with disabilities that they will not be discriminated against unfairly at the workplace. Although the journey is not complete, the ADA has brought so much already to the 15% of Americans who are disabled.

Celebrations of this day have been happening all over the United States from Aaron Fotheringham performing his famous wheelchair backflip, art galleries by disabled artists, music, displays, marches, parades, and President Barack Obama is even holding an event this evening at the White House to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Changes are ongoing and sometimes not quite expected including 5 grassy “relief stations” for travelers with guide dogs at the Los Angeles International Airport. The facilities includes bowls and fake fire hydrants.


Critics claim that some places may even go a little overboard with accessibility as there is talk of a Lifeguard station on Clearwater Beach in Florida that is installing an $18,000 wheelchair lift for the building only used by lifeguards.

Even the dugout at the Bright House Field where the Philadelphia Phillies have their spring training has a wheelchair lift that has sat unused for 7 years. In contract, other places are in need of accessibility that are overlooked, but it’s an ongoing effort that may never end.

The law was signed into effect by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. He reassured Americans his Administration and Congress were “committed to containing the costs that may be incurred” and borrowed words from President Reagon’s Berlin Wall speech, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

Senator Harkin speaks about the Americans with Disabilities Act and remembers a time before the ADA was signed including people climbing stairs with their hands, being unable to cross the street without curb cuts, and even the attitudes of people with disabilities being changed.  The barriers of discrimination have been broken down to create equality amongst all Americans. “The ADA has broken down barriers, created opportunities, and transformed lives.”

To read more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit our article: Wheelchair Accessibility Laws and How it All Began and the official website for the ADA at https://www.ada.gov/

Man Moves Robotic Hand Using his Mind


Using only his mind, Pierpaolo Petruzziello is able to move a robotic hand.  Electrodes implanted into his forearm that are connected to his nervous system make this feat possible.

In 2006, Pierpaolo had a car accident due to a drunk driver.  He lost his left hand and forearm in the accident.  Pierpaolo’s father sought hope for his son and found the robotic hand project.

After undergoing many tests, he joined the Life Hand Project, a 5 year project funded by the European Union.  He underwent surgery to attach electrodes to his existing forearm.  These electrodes helped him recognize and manipulate the biomedical hand.  The doctors would send him stimuli, and he learned how to control the hand through trial and error of the different movements.

Closing his eyes and focusing, he was able to make the hand start to move.  It took a lot of concentration as he envisioned the hand being attached to himself.  He repeated to himself that his hand does exist, that he can move it, and to just clench his fingers….  then looking up he noticed that it was indeed moving the robotic hand in an intelligent fashion.


In fact, in all prior attempts to manipulate a robotic hand, no one has been able to create such precise movements using only their mind.

“When I succeeded at closing the hand, I felt like I scored a goal at the last minute.  It was a such an important moment.  The researchers looked at me, and I understood that we made it.  I haven’t done all of this just for myself.  I lost a hand, but there are people who have lost more and are suffering.  I felt like I was helping science, and for this reason I never gave up.  I’m happy now.” says Pierpaolo Petrizziello.

The next challenge is to connect a prosthetic limb for years, not just one month.  For his efforts, Pierpaolo is guaranteed one of those limbs.

Watch the complete story of the man who moves a robotic hand using his mind below:

Soldier Zero – A New Wheelchair Superhero by Stan Lee

Meet Soldier Zero. He is one of the latest of three superheroes by famed creator Stan Lee in collaboration with Boom Studios. What’s so different about Soldier Zero? He spends his time in a wheelchair when not being a superhero.


Soldier Zero is the story of Stewart, a teaching assistant at a college who is in a wheelchair. Stewart talks often about how he is limited by his environment, not just physical spaces that are not wheelchair accessible, but also the attitudes of other people, even the overprotective care of his older brother who raised him. After an alien arrives on earth and bonds with Stewart, he is able to experience an unlimited environment inside the alien manifested armor for short periods of time.

The subject has been handled with extra special care and lots of advice from people in wheelchairs. Paul Cornell, one of three writers for the superhero, explains. “It’s a classic Stan story, which takes a bit of modern bravery—and the advice of wheelchair users—to tell. We’re all aware that there’d be a truly horrible way to approach it, and we all want to avoid that, by tackling the issues head on, without euphemism, and crucially, talking to those in Stewart’s situation and changing the book accordingly.”

The alien that bonds with Stewart creating Soldier Zero is done so merely by accident while it is trying to escape hostile enemies. On the alien’s home planet, it’s usual for this alien to bond with host bodies of another species. The resulting Soldier Zero will project characteristics of both the alien and Stewart. “Soldier Zero is a mixture of human and alien, a symbiotic entity that shares control of, for instance, a larynx. He’s immensely strong and tough, and can use vastly advanced tech to attempt almost anything,” Cornell explained. “The alien is a warrior, but with Stewart aboard, the shared being is a hero.”

Soldier Zero faces many threats along his journey including Stewart’s problems along, another creature that is hunting the original alien, and his new enemy. “There’s a much less principled symbiote hunting the alien, and the intelligence community take an interest, resulting in the creation of a classic Stan villain, the nemesis of our hero.”

At first we will see Soldier Zero thrown into “an immediate and desperate battle for survival that makes Stewart reassess the people around him, and his own actions,” Cornell said. “He’s a bit of a Peter Parker (Spiderman), a hero in spirit who’s limited by the people he has to deal with.”

The other two superheros compose of a time traveler (The Traveler) and an unwitting heir to an intergalactic empire (Starborn). The news was released yesterday at the Comic Con, an annual science fiction and comic convention in California that is littered with celebrities and everything new tied to the comic industry.


Want to see more superheros in wheelchairs? Another character created by Stan Lee from the past is Professor X from the X Men. You can read all about him on the Marvel website.

Autistic Basketball Player Astounds Audience

Jason McElwain made national news for being quite the unlikely basketball star. Growing up, Jason had trouble interacting with other kids due to his autism and during his teenage years began to open up to people. Jason had a passion for basketball, so he was appointed the manager of his high school basketball team yet never given the chance to play.

Service Dog and SURFice Dog Ricochet

Surfer Dog Catches Some Waves for Charity

Just because you can’t do one thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t excel at something else.

Meet Ricochet, a surfing dog that raises money for charity.

Ricochet was raised as a service dog for the disabled and just didn’t fit in where she was originally intended. Try as her owner might, Ricochet was more interested in the birds flying in the sky despite her being a puppy prodigy with her skills and training. Ricochet had to be taken out of the training program as actions like this could prove to be harmful for a person with disabilities.

The trainer was upset that Ricochet didn’t work for the program, but after letting Ricochet be herself and catch some waves on the surfboard, her owner realized how amazing she really was. Watch the video video below to learn more about this surfing dog and see her in action.

See other good that Ricochet has done with 6 year old Ian.

Ricochet’s story was even featured on ABC News!

Want to learn more about Ricochet and his surfing adventures? Visit her website at www.surfdogricochet.com

Going After the Fastest Wheelchair World Record


Bob Gullickson is on a mission to drive a rocket-powered wheelchair at speeds that could reach 100 miles per hour in an effort to set a world wheelchair record.

Disabled from a motorcycle accident, Gulickson has been a paraplegic since he was 19. He was a cook in the US Navy when he fell from his motorcycle and landed on a landscape stake that struck his spinal cord.

Gullickson has a passon for hot cars, fast motors, and the element of surprise.

“It’s not just speed, but to do something that surprises myself and others,” he explained. “I think I have a desire to do things that have speed involved, but I won’t do anything faster than my guardian angel says is OK.”

The wheelchair he will be performing this stunt in resembles a high tech go-cart invented by Ky Michaelson, a nationally renowned inventor when it comes to speed.  They agreed that a regular wheelchair would not be safe.  The machine weighs about 150 pounds, shoots forward on a hydrogen peroxide-fueled thrust, and has handles on the back to resemble a wheelchair.

The Guinness Book of World Records has told him that a new category called “fastest wheelchair” has been opened in anticipation of the September event.