Exoskeletons, which are wearable robotic devices, have the potential to improve and even restore the mobility of the children with physical disadvantages such as motor control deficit, muscle weakness or muscle spasticity. Currently, robotic exoskeletons are expensive, bulky, relatively heavy, and do not fit majority of the children. We aim to create a lightweight, low profile, and cost-effective solution to treat abnormal walking patterns associated with the knee. About 81% of the children with CP present with either knee hyperextension or excessive knee flexion while walking as a compensation mechanism associated with their disability. Children with CP have lower levels of physical activity and higher sedentary behavior compared to the age-matched healthy children. Low levels of physical activity contribute to increased risk of chronic diseases. The implications of these abnormal walking patters include increased stress on soft tissue structures which can lead to permanent joint deformity if untreated. Therefore, early treatment for genu recurvatum or crouch gait is crucial to prevent further development of musculoskeletal weakness and alternation caused by prolonged compensatory behavior. We propose to introduce a wearable robotic knee exoskeleton to aid in restoring normal gait to assist children with impaired motor control in the lower extremity by providing flexion/extension torque assistance at the knee joint. By providing appropriate support and correcting pathophysiological gait biomechanics, an assistive knee robotic exoskeleton can help children to learn to walk efficiency and restore their mobility and independence.
A novel robotic knee exoskeleton designed for a pediatric population with walking disability. Wearable robotic exoskeleton technology has tremendous potential as both an assistive and therapeutic technology for impaired populations. Even with recent technology development for powered exoskeletons, there is a major gap in translating this technology to the pediatric population. Unlike current commercialized multi-joint exoskeletons with high price-tags which put them out of reach for most individuals, this robotic exoskeleton is designed to be cost-effective and more affordable. The robotic device is also capable of size adjustment to accommodate a wide range of body sizes for the pediatric population.
APDC funds will be used to complete a biomechanics analysis of able-bodied adult subjects to demonstrate safety and efficacy of the device, and the development of an appropriate clinical algorithm to support children with knee walking abnormalities.