There’s a growing body of research to show that gait training — the process of bearing weight and bringing your legs through the motion of walking, whether or not you have the function to do so volitionally — is beneficial for all sorts of secondary complications of spinal cord injury, from reducing spasticity to improving circulation to preventing bone density issues and even helping in the recovery of function.
The problem with gait training is that it’s expensive. Robotic treadmill systems, like those available at major rehab and research centers, cost in the six-figures range, and lower-tech options typically require multiple trained therapists, which quickly adds up if you want to pursue gait training with the kind of frequency that is required to see any benefit.
Enter the Spartan by Renegait, a simple but effective apparatus — essentially a hinged control arm that connects to the user’s legs at three points — that allows a single operator to effectively bring the user’s legs into a walking motion. “The physical therapist or the trainer, whomever, grabs at the handles. Depending on how they move the device, it cleverly controls what the hip, knee, and ankle are doing,” says Daniel Campbell, the creator of the Spartan.
Campbell, an engineering student at Arizona State University and C6 quad, came up with the idea for the Spartan from his own experiences with gait training. After finishing rehab, Campbell did aggressive physical therapy at a clinic in Chicago and saw significant return of motor and sensory function. When Campbell decided to move to Phoenix for school, the therapy options he found in Phoenix at the time were mostly small clinics that didn’t have the resources or manpower for consistent gait training. Campbell noticed a decline in his recovery, which gave him the impetus to design a product to make gait training easier and more cost-effective.
After talking with some local therapists, he came up with the base concept for the Spartan, made out of supplies he purchased at Home Depot. “The first version was pretty crude, but it worked. It was proof of concept,” says Campbell. “I brought it to Touchstone [his physical therapy clinic in Phoenix], and the PT used it with me. People saw it and they were interested, and at that point, it just took on a life of its own. I realized this could help a lot of people, not just me.”
After a long period of development, with everyone from stroke survivors to a C4-5 quad to low-level paras having tested the device, the Spartan is set to go on sale this month. Campbell sees both clinics and home users as markets. “The first people who ever used the Spartan on me were my parents. They’re untrained, not PTs. They picked it up pretty fast,” he says.
As the Spartan only controls the gait motion, users still need support. For those with the strength to hold themselves up with their arms, the Spartan can be used with a rolling walker. People with higher level injuries sometimes need to be supported with a ceiling harness, and Campbell says that some with more trunk and leg function are able to use it with a basic walker, like you can buy at a pharmacy.
Campbell hopes that the Spartan is able to bring the benefits of gait training to more people than current options can. “A lot of devices have so many indications and contraindications, and they work for a narrow population, whereas the Spartan … if the person’s joints have integrity and they’re able to stand upright, then they can use it. It works for people with extreme spasticity. It works for short people, very tall people, overweight people. It works for all different shapes and sizes,” he says.
The Spartan will soon be available for ordering. For more information, including pricing when it’s available, please visit renegait.com