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UF researchers develop a cycling device that decreases patient rehab time

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 11:33 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - UF researchers developed a cycling device designed to improve the rehab process for people with neuromuscular disorders.

Pairing a cycling machine with electrical stimulation has been a way to rehabilitate patients for years, but Ph.D. candidate Kimberly Stubbs is taking it up a notch.

“You would essentially sit in a chair in a relaxed manner and not even control your own muscles, the stimulation is doing all the work for you,” said Stubbs, describing older technology.

But with this hand-cycling system, the patient’s role completely changes.

“With a teleoperated system, you have taken back the control, you’re the driver, you’re getting to choose,” said Stubbs.

She said pairing the hand and leg movements can decrease recovery time for patients.

“It’s really just a single hand cycle that has a sensor or an encoder that’s determining the pace and the position of your hands at any given moment.”

Simply put, what the hand does the foot follows.

The device has two separate gears allowing the legs to be able to move independently. This is helpful for someone regaining motor skills on one side of their body, like someone recovering from a stroke.

Physical therapists can also provide therapy remotely.

“That dual cycle system is more when the physical therapist is controlling the system and getting feedback to know how well the person is doing.”

Stubbs says the device will also have a component that makes rehab more enjoyable.

“If we could integrate this into a VR system, you’re not only putting yourself into this pleasant environment, you’re also kind of blocking out the rest of the world at the same time,” she said.

Patients would be able to use the cycling machine while feeling like they’re biking through the mountains or a meadow.

“When participants come in and engage in our systems and they get to see their muscles controlling the bicycle it’s a really impactful experience for them and I love being a part of that,” said Warren Dixon, inventor and Department Chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.

Stubbs said they hope to start testing the system on patients in the next month.

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