Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Runner with No Legs

Bilateral Amputee Banned from Olympics - Trendhunter
Photo Credit: Bryan Christie Design

My father is an above-knee amputee and has talked about the Cheetah prosthetic for some time now. The basic concept is to use a piece of tensioned metal that produces a spring in the step of the runner, propelling him forward. At the moment, such prosthetics are limited to below-the-knee amputees as the sockets requires for above-knee amputees lag are complicated and require a different arrangement than is possible with below-knee amputees. The key factor is the issue of building a working synthetic knee.
All this is said as a way of helping people understand why a double below-knee amputee is being denied the opportunity to compete in the 2008 Olympics. The crux of the matter is that the Cheetah prosthetic is basically a giant spring, giving the wearer a distinct advantage over those runners who have to rely only on their natural leg muscles. Still, is a bit of a win-lose situation: sure a runner equipped with the Cheetah prosthetic would run fast than the competition but at the end of the day you're still missing your legs. I understand the Olympic committee's decision, just as they would ban any substance that would give a runner a performance edge over the competition so does the Cheetah prosthetic. Still, it would have been a sight to see Oscar Pistorius compete.

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