Most weeks I spend a fair portion of my time assessing the gait and biomechanics of runners. Some will have quite benign data that doesn’t really jump off the page and some will have truly curious data that tells a neat story about their body’s function. And then there is the very odd occasion when I get to do something innovative that gives me a chance to explore and see something I may not have seen before.
A couple of months ago I was very lucky to have the chance to perform a gait and biomechanics assessment on a young guy that had suffered an incomplete spinal injury and was quite early into the rehab from this. Having never before worked with someone in this situation I had to think on my feet (a good thing for the developing mind) and reformat the systematic approach I would normally use for runners. As I went through the process I had to adapt on-the-fly in order to react to what I was seeing and ensure we got the most out of the time. I had no real idea of how bad the injury was and how far he had come in the rehab until I saw him. So it was a huge and rewarding learning for me.
Applying technology that is designed for runners has its drawbacks. Because he could not run, the sensors had a hard time understanding his foot strike and so metrics such as ground contact time and cadence that are calculated from foot strike acceleration signature were out of the question. But I was able to measure his peak acceleration/deceleration (bilateral), his ground reaction force (bilateral) and his overall symmetry in percentage terms. In fact it was even possible with multiple intervals at different speeds to hone in on a speed range where he was most symmetric.
Below is a quick snapshot of a result from one of the intervals. The symmetry parameter (ASI) looks very alarming at first but you as long you put it in the context of a recovering SCI patient then of course it is totally fine. For me it’s a new data point at the far end of the database that really puts all the other data in perspective.