Brace may stop elderly falling
Tiny chip monitors and corrects abnormalities
A tiny chip monitors movement of the ankle and starts vibrating if it detects abnormalities.
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A vibrating ankle brace designed by a group of Stanford University students may help the elderly from falling.
The "smart" brace is fitted with a tiny chip, which continuously monitors the position of the ankle.
If the chip detects a roll that is greater than normal, it begins to vibrate.
The vibrations send a signal to the brain that the person needs to change the position of their foot or shift their balance in order to avoid a fall.
The students -- Tim Ramsey, Ryan McDonnell, Buzzy Bonneau, Tejas Mazmudar, Jeremy Dittmer and Surag Mantri -- say they wanted to come up with something that would detect the body's position in relation to its surroundings, a sense that decreases as people get older and can cause falls among the elderly.
Their aim was to create something that was much more discreet than devices used to prevent falls, such as walkers and canes, which were cumbersome.
The students are all taking part in the California university's Biodesign Innovation Program, working with Thomas Andriacchi, professor of mechanical engineering and orthopedic surgery at Stanford.
Mantri said there was a real need for such a product because one in three people over the age of 65 have falls each year, according to research.
The design was still in its preliminary stages but they hope it will be commercially available soon, Mantri said.
"The development of the device is still at a preliminary stage and more testing, research and funds need to be invested before commercialization is possible," said Mantri.
The group said in their research: "The ability to detect and prevent falls would not only cause a significant cost savings in health care, but would greatly improve the comfort and lifestyle of this growing segment of the population [the elderly]."
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