If, like millions around the globe, you watched avidly as the London 2012 Summer Paralympics took place, you would no doubt be blown away by the remarkable display of super-human athleticism from the likes of Oscar Pistorius and Jonnie Peacock: these games helped to remind us that we now live in an age where unilateral and bilateral below-knee amputees are capable of running the 100m event in under 11 seconds: feats which are testament to the dedication and focus of these individuals.
Aside from the determination and hard work that all of the athletes who participated in the summer Paralympics put into their sporting performances, years of research and development has went into the creation of ever-more advanced prosthetic technology which is fine-tuned to give athletes the tools they need to compete to the fullest in each event and focus on the task at hand.
Let’s take a look at one of most popular models used by these athletes…
Flex-Foot Cheetah from Össur
Made famous by Oscar Pistorius and his fellow ‘Blade Runners’, this prosthesis is a J-shaped carbon-composite sprinting foot which stores the energy generated by the wearer’s steps, compressing like a spring as it absorbs each and every impact, before returning back to its’ original shape, releasing a burst of energy and propelling the runner forward at high speed.
Rather than designing a prosthetic which would accurately mimic the human foot, the creators of this amazing piece of engineering were inspired by the Cheetah: the fastest land-animal on the planet; as such, this design has no heel-section and is designed primarily for competing in high-impact track-and-field athletic events, rather than for performing standard low-impact tasks.
By using carbon-composite material in its construction, the Flex-Foot Cheetah is comprised of many layers: this means that different levels of rigidity can be achieved at various parts of the prosthetic by simply adding or removing layers as required; the end result is a blade which is rigid enough at points to cope with the massive amount of impact being placed upon the unit, as well as flexible where springiness is required;
As a popular model among athletes, the Flex-Foot Cheetah can be adjusted to take on different characteristics to suit the individual who is using the prosthetic: indeed, it can be modified to take on different shapes and alignments, as well as fitted with a spiked sole on the toe section for added traction.
Products like this prosthetic have helped athletes across the globe to realise their dreams and achieve record-shattering stardom; as technology improves and becomes more accessible, we can expect to see plenty more stars propelled forward by these marvellous blades.
Jane Goldberg runs an agency which specialises in locum occupational therapy jobs.