Progress Through Military Prosthetics

This is one of the prototype foot prosthetic devices at the Medical Center Prosthetics center. (Photo by Jessica L. Tozer)

This is one of the prototype foot prosthetic devices at the Medical Center Prosthetics center. (Photo by Jessica L. Tozer)

Losing a leg is one of the scarier scenarios when it comes to military deployment.

Unfortunately, it’s also a possibility.  I joined the Army in 2002, and at that time I remember rumblings about what would happen if and when we got deployed.  Back then it was practically an inevitability.  We discussed all manner of possibilities, from the best to the worst, all with the knowledge that anything and everything could happen to us downrange.

Losing a limb was one of those things.

Many of us weren’t sure how we would handle that situation.  Some were genuinely fearful, worried that having one (or more) leg(s) less would cost them more than just their walking rights.  At that time, prosthetic technology was slowly starting to progress, but you could see that some things were in the early stages of improving.

The idea of losing a leg was more debilitating, in a sense.  Amputees could end up walking with a painful limp, or confined to a wheelchair, the prospect of standing tall a less than likely scenario.

However, the advances in prosthetic development have gone leaps and bounds (and yes, I use that term deliberately) since 2002.  Technological and mechanical advancements are working in tandem to give service members who gave their limbs for their country the chance at a normal, albeit bionic life.

Just a few of the different iterations of bionic joints for prosthetics at  the Medical Center Prosthetics.  (Photo by Jessica L. Tozer)

Just a few of the different iterations of bionic joints at the Medical Center Prosthetics. (Photo by Jessica L. Tozer)

From excellent materials, to control mobility advancement, to even the chance at controlling manufactured limbs with the human mind, the prosthetics of the past are evolving into the assistance for an ambulate future.

But don’t just take my word for it…

Ian Fothergill is the Clinical Manager for Medical Center Prosthetics, in Linden Lane, Silver Spring.  His facility serves the many men and women in need of a prosthetic leg (or two) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

I spent some time with the jovial Scot, and he explained some of the more fantastic advances and advantages to military prosthetics.

The exciting thing about this, my dear readers, is that this field only continues to grow and expand.  Advances in this field are being made every day, reaching ever-closer to turning the prosthetic leg into a a more perfectly formed extension of the human body.  But, as Ian observed, it’s not so much the technology as it is finding the right fit.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a bionic limb or a peg leg,” Ian says, “if it’s comfortable for the amputee that’s what matters.” 

Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.

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