I have a buddy who lost an arm to a mine in Vietnam and now heads the VA’s prosthetics programs. While hunting deer a couple of years ago in West Virginia he explained to me that although the new body armor has saved many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan it has also caused a greater percentage of amputations across the population of wounded than previous conflicts because of the way the shock of an explosion is transferred to the extremities.
Resultantly there is a great demand for prostheses, and from demand comes innovation. Modern technology has afforded wounded warriors devices that are increasingly capable of replicating the performance of human limbs — a huge quality of life issue for these heroes.
Otto Bock HealthCare, a company that started out providing devices for German World War I veterans in 1919, has developed a prosthetic knee system that is an upgrade to its already popular C-Leg. According to an Armed Forces Press Service release “the prosthesis is for above-the-knee amputees and uses a microprocessor to control the knee’s hydraulic functions and anticipate the wearer’s actions and make changes in real time.”
The new system has more sensors, a faster hard drive, and more memory. Engineers are also looking to improve battery life to 50 hours per charge. The release states the leg will “improve transitions between movements like level-ground walking, climbing stairs, and running.”
Barring any technical problems, the new prosthesis should be available to servicemembers in 2009.