Hosted by the Amputee Support Group, Dankmeyer and the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopedic Institute co-sponsored the June 17, 2015 session of Advanced Gait Training for Individuals with Lower Extremity Amputations. Fourth in an ongoing series of training sessions, the morning program of Advanced Gait Training and the evening session of Amputee Walking School is designed to bring Paralympians and self-styled “professional amputees” Todd Schaffhauser and Dennis Oehler together with other amputees and their families, physical therapists, prosthetists and support staff - to teach and practice training exercises for lower limb amputees. Todd and Dennis, both lower limb amputees, co-founded the Amputee Walking School (AWS) in 1989 to take amputees beyond traditional rehabilitation. This June session was attended by over 30 clinicians and patients and they were joined by a large group of physical therapy students from the University of Maryland.
Mark Hopkins, CEO of Dankmeyer, a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist and a Physical Therapist, notes: “Amputees need training to use their prosthesis properly as only so much can be overcome with technology. A long term relationship between the patient and his/her support team is motivation for progress and helps to facilitate confidence in device use. There is a starting point for prosthesis use - the patient progresses from beginner, to intermediate and advanced use. Over a span of time there is a change of ability and progress in movement. Sometimes people plateau or digress, or are ready for the next advance. This multi-disciplinary clinic is designed for long term followup and provides a touchstone for all involved to evaluate progress. For these reasons this is a continuing education training program - it is meant to benefit all levels for gait training, and patients are encouraged to attend AWS regularly."
Todd and Dennis begin with a morning lecture and demonstration session, primarily attended by physical therapists and clinicians, to review the biomechanics of walking, running and other physical activities with a prosthetic device. They discuss how to assess functional level and learn to look for indicators of successful prosthetic use. Stretching and strengthening exercises for amputees are reviewed along with some treatment approaches for their patients. Todd and Dennis provide a number of practical demonstrations with the lecture and share their experiences as Para-Olympian Track and Field Medalists to educate and inspire these clinicians on sports and recreational opportunities for amputees.
After this morning session, clinicians are joined by patients in a gym environment where Todd and Dennis rotate through clinician/patient workgroups for hands on exercises. Patients work with assistive devices, Therabands, stairs, balance boards, balance beam, agility gym floor ladder, and even an obstacle course in some cases. With these tools they work on fast walking, self selected walking speed, varying steps, running, balance and knee control, movement on stairs and curbs, and for some pediatric patients, perhaps kicking a soccer ball. Family members who are present are able to participate and assist in these activities.
Todd and Dennis never fail to engage all attendees in an educational experience that is both fun, active and informative. We look forward to their next visit Wednesday, October 21, 2015. Specific information will be available soon.