TetraSki, a new technology was integrated into the 33rd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, held in Snowmass Colorado from March 31 to April 5, 2019. The technology was integrated in the clinic for the second year in a row to help promote independence in skiing and life. The Tetradapt Initiative began over 10 years ago when founder and visionary, Jeffrey Rosenbluth, MD, of Tetradapt Community dreamed of helping people living with paralysis.
As a result of this initiative, people who are completely paralyzed can now enjoy downhill skiing and sailing in a new way. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic has grown to assist nearly 400 profoundly disabled veterans. The Clinic has provided Tetradapt Community with a platform to showcase their technology, bringing hope to veterans with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions and other disabilities.
"We are honored to work with the VA. Many people are not involved in adaptive sports as they feel that they can't get involved. The technology was not available in the past." said Rosenthal.
"We want to help people with real complex physical disabilities enjoy normal activities."
Dr. Rosenthal is currently the Medical Director of the Spinal Cory Injury Acute Rehabilitation program at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City, Utah and at South Davis Community Hospital, Bountiful, Utah, where he oversees Sub-acute and long term acute Spinal Cord Injury programs. He became interested in rehabilitation medicine and technology at the very beginning of his career. After graduating from New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York and completing his residency at University California (UC) Davis, Davis, California with a focus on rehabilitation medicine, Dr. Rosenthal landed his first job at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
His dreams of impacting the lives of those living with paralysis were coming true. He joined the University of Utah's adaptive sports rehabilitation program and began developing the university's very own TetraSki equipment.
"I fell in love with rehabilitation technology and what adaptive ski was doing for people. I was given the opportunity to work with veterans after completing my residency at UC Davis. I wanted to continue my work with veterans. Rehabilitation technology amazed me," said Dr. Rosenthal. "That was the beginning."
Hitting the slopes
A unique technology and the only one like it in the world, the TetraSki provides independent turning and speed variability through the use of a joystick and/or breath control, using a sip-and-puff technique. The sip-and-puff switch does not require hand availability and activates by simply sipping and puffing breaths of air in and out, causing the chair to be directed in whichever direction it is instructed. The TetraSki is ideal for individuals with the most complex physical abilities.
Vietnam War Veteran Robert Johnson from Hines, Illinois, on TetraSki at Winter Sports Clinic 2019.
For the first time in adaptive sports, skiers can use the joystick and sip-and-puff functionality simultaneously. The feature allows users to enjoy downhill skiing in their own ski chair. A tether-to the instructor is used as an emergency brake but is not used for turning directions.
U.S Army and Vietnam Veteran Robert Johnson of Hines, Illinois experienced the TetraSki first hand at the Winter Sports Clinic, last year in 2018. Mr. Morris is a patient at the David Hines Jr. Veteran Affairs (VA) Hospital, Hines, Illinois and became involved with the hospital's adaptive sports program 5 years ago. He is an appropriate candidate for Tetra-Ski and considered to be "more involved," meaning, having more extreme impairment. When asked what he enjoyed most about Tetra-Ski he said,
"The TetraSki is amazing. I like to lean in and out when I ski. Individuals who don't have as much coordination ability as I do would really love it! The sip-and-puff is very useful for those who are high level quadriplegics. The technology is perfect."
After three years of development by the University of Utah Rehabilitation Research and Development team, three TetraSkis will be provided to nine national adaptive ski program partners for shared use during the 2018/2019 ski season, and VA is among the lucky group. Tetradapt Community works in coordination with the University of Utah's best engineering, research, business and medical experts to design manufacture to deliver the state-of-the-art TetraSki equipment.
Money is not the goal
Tetradapt Community is nonprofit and does not plan to sell the TetraSki in the market place. The goal is to expose the technology to the public for fundraising purposes. The technology is leased to VA Adaptive Sports programs and other adaptive sports programs. The company has received funding from VA Adaptive Sports and other private organizations, receiving roughly between $40,000.00- 120,000.00 dollars each year in funding.
"We had a good idea and wanted to see it carried out in the market, not for profit but for people to see its commercial potential," said Dr. Rosenthal.
The National Disabled Sports Clinics empower those with perceived limitations by participating in adaptive sports that improve their overall health and outlook. The clinic is made possible through a longstanding partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs. Tetradapt Community hopes to continue to its involvement with the winter sports clinics and the VA is excited to create more awareness of the Tetradapt initiative, giving hope back to individuals with physical impairments. The therapy and joy that this technology provides to veterans is immeasurable. When asked what impact he feels the TetraSki will have on our veterans and the future Dr. Rosenthal commented,
"The technology requires a huge cultural and mind shift. "It's a shockingly independent experience,"
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.