Sports clinic’s 3D gait-anal­y­sis ma­chine takes guess­work out of treat­ing in­juries

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - FRONT PAGE - By Scott Bil­leck scott.bil­leck@freep­ress.mb.ca

ANEW ma­chine at Win­nipeg’s premier sports medicine clinic aims to make “no pain, no gain,” a slo­gan of

the past.

The Pan Am Clinic is one of just 20 clin­ics and 48 lo­ca­tions around the world — and the only one in Man­i­toba — with a $25,000 3D Gait Anal­y­sis Sys­tem.

It’s not un­com­mon for ma­jor uni­ver­si­ties to have a biome­chan­ics lab that can do 3D mo­tion mea­sure­ments, ac­cord­ing to Reed Fer­ber, who in­vented the sys­tem.

“Al­most 11 years ago now, we wanted to know, how do you trans­late that sci­en­tific anal­y­sis into a clinic set­ting to im­prove health care?” says Fer­ber, a ki­ne­si­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the Run­ning In­jury Clinic at the Univer­sity of Calgary.

So, what does the sys­tem do? The process is rather sim­ple. As a pa­tient walks or runs on a tread­mill, 16 cam­eras cre­ate a 3D model that is used to as­sess biome­chan­ics in the pa­tient’s hips, knees and an­kles.

The in­for­ma­tion is en­tered into a data­base that has biome­chan­ics mea­sure­ments from 5,000 healthy sub­jects to find sim­i­lar run­ning and walk­ing move­ments.

“It’s enor­mous,” Fer­ber says, re­fer­ring to the vol­ume of in­for­ma­tion. “All of the data from around the world — Brazil, New Zealand, Eng­land, Spain, Canada and the United States — flows into a cen­tral data­base right here at the Univer­sity of Calgary.”

Pan Am Clinic phys­io­ther­a­pist Kim Senechal has been work­ing with the Gait Anal­y­sis Sys­tem since Septem­ber.

“(I’m) very ex­cited about it,” the ul­tra-marathon com­peti­tor says. “It does take some of the bias out of the equa­tion.

“We think we might be see­ing some­thing, but this con­firms yes or no. I think run­ners can feel con­fi­dent about the rec­om­men­da­tions we are making.”

The process re­quires two vis­its. The first, de­tailed above, takes about an hour. The sec­ond visit is a re­view and plan­ning ses­sion. A phys­io­ther­a­pist will share the find­ings, make rec­om­men­da­tions and, if re­quired, de­velop a treat­ment plan.

The sys­tem’s ef­fec­tive­ness is proven, based on peer-re­viewed, pub­lished re­search, which sug­gests 90 per cent of pa­tients who use the unit and fol­low the sub­se­quent plan are pain-free within six weeks.

“We’re tak­ing the guess­work out of it,” Fer­ber says. “We’re not re­ly­ing on a phys­io­ther­a­pist’s opin­ion any­more. We com­pare the mo­tion to ev­ery­one in the data­base in or­der to pro­vide a con­text to the data so you can make in­formed de­ci­sions on what’s the root con­text of the in­jury and how to pro­ceed from there.”

Senechal says tak­ing the guess­work about a run­ner’s gait out of the equa­tion isn’t a slight to her abil­ity as a ther­a­pist. To the con­trary, it pro­vides a con­crete ba­sis for her rec­om­men­da­tions.

“We’re al­ways try­ing to do ev­i­dence-based prac­tice, and the more we have, the more solid our rec­om­men­da­tions are,” she says. “There are so many things you can’t see with the naked eye. The er­ror rate is quite high be­tween vi­su­als and Fer­ber’s sys­tem. We’re cor­re­lat­ing what we see with the gait sys­tem with what we see with our eyes. My con­fi­dence is high in my rec­om­men­da­tions.”

The cost for a 90 per cent chance at be­ing pain free is $250.

“I spend $180 on run­ning shoes with­out blink­ing,” Senechal says.

Man­i­toba Health doesn’t cover the cost, but some pri­vate in­sur­ers may.

Mean­while, Fer­ber says he’s work­ing on the next gen­er­a­tion of tech­nol­ogy for the sys­tem.

“We have par­ti­tioned the data­base so that if a fe­male run­ner comes into the Pan Am Clinic, she will be com­pared to other fe­male run­ners in the data­base. And the same with a male,” he says. “In the new year, we will be par­ti­tion­ing it fur­ther so we can com­pare recre­ational run­ners to com­pet­i­tive run­ners and whether your toes touch the ground first or your heel touches the ground first.

“The more we par­ti­tion the data­base, the more we are able to make ap­ples-to-ap­ples com­par­isons for each pa­tient.

“We are hop­ing that soon we will be able to pre­dict in­jury in some­one who has no pain or symp­toms.”


Sarah Flett, a 3D Gait Anal­y­sis tech­ni­cian/ ki­ne­si­ol­o­gist at the PanAm Clinic, has her lower-body move­ments recorded by the ma­chine while run­ning on a tread­mill; right, the 3D model

of Flett’s gait can be used to asses her biome­chan­ics.

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