Prosthetics improve significantly from previous years

Prosthetics have come a long way from what they used to be.
Prosthetics have come a long way from what they used to be.

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - When the South African Paralympics athlete Oscar Pistorius ran in the regular Olympic games in London, all eyes were on his prosthetic legs.

Kim Duckett is a certified trainer, counselor and prosthetist at Fourroux Prosthetics.  He works with amputees like David Seaman.

Duckett also lost his own leg after a motorcycle accident at age 17.  He said his own experiences led him to study and research the very latest technology available to amputees.

"As time started evolving, you started seeing different hydraulics come into play.  Different types of sockets come into play.  Instead of the old hard, wooden sockets now we use a lot of silicones, not only functional, but comfortable," said Duckett.

He said newer models are much lighter in weight with titanium and carbon fibers, which absorb energy.  And companies within the health care industry are taking notice.

"Also with some of the microprocessor knees, they are made not only for energy consumption and control; also give a patient a sense of stability.  So insurance companies are looking at some of these new components that are coming out now and they're saying this will stop my patient from falling and breaking a hip or breaking a shoulder," he said.

The science of prosthetic limbs is evolving at lightning speed.  Duckett said manufacturers used to take a piece of wood - hollow out the middle to the approximate size of the amputees remaining limb.

"This is very similar to the old wooden leg that I originally started out with.  It had metal harnessing that come up the side and a big leather strap that I would strap around my waist," he said.

Duckett said he literally has scars from earlier models.

One of Duckett's jobs is to make absolutely certain that the prosthetic meets the needs of the amputee.

"You take someone that's 72.  Her needs might be totally different than a 35-year-old, so you have to look at everybody individually and find out what they're lifestyle is like, what they have the will to do and what they want to accomplish and then match up stuff to that," he said.

He said he doesn't want amputees to go through some of his earlier experiences.

"My goal is that the next 17-year-old that's lying in a hospital bed, that he knows that life's not over," he said.

Something he proves every day with activities like hunting and even climbing a deer stand.

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