Patented NASA technology that originally enhanced robotics and sounding rockets is now aiding soldiers with spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries to walk. The revolutionary physical therapy device named SAM, for the Secure Ambulation Mode, is based on technology originally developed and honed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
The technology consists of short segments of flexible cable that connect to hardware, all of which allows joint-like, multidirectional movement and shock absorption. In the 1990s the system was incorporated in a patented walker which supported the pelvis and imitated hip joint movement, alleviating pain to injured patients by reducing the amount of weight placed on the legs.
In 2003, Enduro Medical Technologies licensed these patented NASA technologies and modified the cable-compliant system into an advanced walker with a flexible harness that embraces the lower torso.
SAM allows patients to stand or walk bearing various amounts of their own weight whether they have a sense of balance or not. ‘It allows them to stand without having three or four therapists helping them,’ said Enduro’s president Ken Messier. ‘So it gets the patient up sooner in the rehabilitation process without a fear of falling and without injuries to the patient or staff.’
The SAM walker also gives patients with degenerative conditions like severe arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's Disease, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson's Disease an opportunity to safely improve their mobility. It has also been used with bariatric, or severely overweight, patients.