Researchers at the University of Tennessee recently announced they have been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Army to study the effectiveness of a microprocessor-controlled prosthetic foot for military veteran amputees with limited mobility.
The study, conducted through the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), will be led by Audrey Zucker-Levin, PhD, PT, MBA, GCS Emeritus, professor of physical therapy, director of the Motion Analysis Laboratory and CHP assistant dean of research; and Phyllis Richey, PhD, associate professor of preventive medicine, physical therapy and pediatrics.
“We are very excited about our new Department of Defense award and the cross-college collaboration opportunity it presents to address an important disparity among veteran below-knee amputees,” Richey said in a press release.
The goal of the 3-year study, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity as part of the “Veteran Amputees Leading prOsthetic Research” (VALOR) program, is to determine whether a microprocessor-controlled foot provides a preferable alternative to the current most commonly prescribed prosthesis for a veteran with a transtibial amputation. The researchers will compare walking efficiency, safety and quality of life for amputees using the traditionally prescribed foot with the microprocessor-controlled foot.
The traditional prosthesis does not lift the toe when its wearer takes a step, causing the amputee to bend the hip or knee or swing the leg out to the side in order to raise the prosthesis higher. The microprocessor-controlled foot should reduce the risk of falls, according to the release, but this type of prosthesis is typically prescribed for higher functioning amputees.
“Due to financial limitations, newer prosthetic components are traditionally provided to the more able-bodied amputee,” Zucker-Levin said. “I am excited to see if providing a high-tech foot will improve function in the typical amputee.”