robotic therapy shows signs of overcoming cerebral palsy

Each year, thousands of children in Pennsylvania and across the United States are afflicted with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a devastating birth injury that is brought about by brain damage, which in turn harms a child’s ability to control his or her muscles. Cerebral palsy is caused by a variety of medical complications that can arise during pregnancy or during childbirth, including oxygen deprivation, premature birth and low birth weight. In many cases, a medical error causes these medical complications.

Children who suffer from cerebral palsy often have difficulty moving and need special care and medical assistive devices to perform basic functions that many people take for granted. However, a new experimental treatment is showing promising signs that it can help children overcome the muscular difficulties caused by cerebral palsy.

Researchers are now using robots to augment traditional physical therapy in order to help children with cerebral palsy learn to walk. The theory behind using robots in therapy involves repetition of movements. While a therapist can help a child move, a therapist cannot replicate the exact same movement over and over again. A robot, however, has the ability to help a child do the exact same movement about 1,000 times.

Researchers believe that each repetition will help a child’s brain reorganize and learn to use his or her muscles in a new way that will help the child walk. One such robot is called the Lokomat. This type of robot holds a child over a treadmill in a harness. The machine then matches the child’s movements to a video game, which helps keep the child engaged in the therapy. With every step the child makes, an on-screen character matches the movement.

Presently, this type of therapy is only available in a few hospitals, and families often need help to cover the expense of this experimental treatment. Many families dealing with cerebral palsy are in a similar financial predicament. However, if a child’s cerebral palsy is caused by a physician’s mistake, an experienced birth injury attorney can help the child’s family seek compensation for the expenses related to treating cerebral palsy.

Source: JCOnline.com, “Robotic rehab — how a determined 7-year-old has become stronger than ever,” Mary Jane Slaby, 16 July 2011

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