The ankle is one of the most important joints in the human body because it plays a critical role in our simple daily activities, such as walking, running, and maintaining upright balance, i.e. standing. When the functionality of someone’s ankle is compromised, they will quickly realize just how much it can hinder their ability to complete seemingly simple tasks. Ankle injuries are caused by both physical trauma and neurological impairments, such as stroke, cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injury. More than 2 million people require ankle rehabilitation each year because of an ankle related injuries. Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States, affecting approximately 795,000 people per year, 63% of which require some form of assistive mechanism (cane, walker, etc.) or rehabilitation. Decreased walking ability due to ankle impairment is a common side effect of stroke that results from losing adequate neurological control and hence an immense amount of rehabilitation to regain motor functions is required.
Due to varied severities of patient injuries or impairments, a need exists for a rehabilitation device that offers both active and passive therapy mechanisms for different stages of rehabilitation. After extensive research, our team has found that there are currently no devices on the market that offer ankle and balance rehabilitation exercises featuring progressive diagnostics, active therapy exercises equipped with interactive virtual reality games.
It is our goal to design and build a robotic ankle and balance training device. This device will act on two degrees of freedom, provide controlled trajectories by motors for active therapy, and deliver progressive diagnostic feedback through sensory equipment. The mechanical hardware will include a stationary platform that houses two robotic ankle trainers. The software will include a closed-loop control strategy in addition to the virtual reality interface that will provide an exciting, immersive therapy experience for the patients. We intend for it to be transportable so that certain patients may use it in their home instead of in a clinical environment. The unique integration of these features will offer a seamless approach to physical rehabilitation of the ankle joint. We will incorporate a variety of hardware/software safety mechanisms for the patient, including a safety harness, safety rails and an inherently safe control program.
The vi-RABT will be used in therapy for patients with orthopedic and neurological impairments, as well as exercise equipment to strengthen the healthy ankle. The virtual reality games will increase patient interaction and commitment to the rehab programs to which they are prescribed. Using games in the rehabilitation training will make therapy more enjoyable for the patients. Instead of counting repetitions of an exercise a patient will be driven to complete a level in a game as they exercise.
The design team will consist of 5 Mechanical Engineering students, 4 of which are Biomechanical minor candidates, from Northeastern University. They are Alex Mazzotta, Ally Bugliari, Paul Doucot, Nate Lavins and JP Valenzuela.
The advisor committee consists of:
Dr. Constantinos Mavroidis
Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University
Director, Biomedical Mechatronics Laboratory at Northeastern University
Dr. Maureen Holden
Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy at Northeastern University
Licensed Physical Therapist
PhD Student, Bioengineering Program, College of Engineering
Research Assistant, Biomedical Mechatronics Laboratory
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Northeastern University
Within the next 4 months a working prototype of the platform will be constructed in the Biomedical Mechatronics Laboratory at Northeastern University. The healthy subject’s ankle strengthening will be the first experiments followed by patients with ankle disability; this testing will be completed in the Physical Therapy Lab at Northeastern University.
Project outcome and impact of result
Project outcome and impact of results :
The outcome of this project will be a 2 degree-of-freedom dual platform rehabilitation device with virtual interface that will be used by both neurological and orthopedic patients. All donations will be used to help purchase the equipment required to build the vi-RABT prototype such as motors, sensing equipment and other mechanical components.
Mechanical Engineering Student (Undergrad), Northeastern University
Boston, MA, United States of America