Veteran Marathoner Shows Neuromuscular Disorder Can Be Beaten

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Beth Deloria of Allard USA will compete in 20 half-marathons in 2012 to encourage people with foot drop to reclaim their lives.

"I know from personal experience the importance of preventing foot drop from taking away the things you want to do in life.”

Marathon runner Beth Deloria, Manager of Community Outreach for Allard USA, is taking to the streets to show the thousands of Americans who suffer from foot drop that they don't have to surrender their mobility to the neuromuscular disorder. Beth will compete in a 20-race schedule of half-marathons in 2012 to demonstrate that foot drop obstacles can be overcome. The 13.1 mile events are part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.

In 2004, severe spinal trauma and subsequent surgery left Beth with nerve damage that made her unable to flex her left ankle and raise the front portion of her foot. The condition, known as foot drop, was devastating for the devout distance runner, who had competed in major marathon events from Chicago to Boston.

“Knowing that my capability declined from running 26 miles to having difficulty walking without tripping was just as much a psychological injury as it was a physical issue,” Beth says. “That’s part of coming to terms with foot drop—there can be an enormous emotional toll when losing the ability to control your foot and ankle muscles prevents you from getting around well enough to live your life.”

With the help of a special orthotic brace, Beth prevented foot drop from taking away her passion for running. Now she’s using her experience to inspire those affected by the disorder not to let it steal their quality of life.

In medical terms, foot drop is a neuromuscular condition caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles that flex the foot upward at the ankle. It can affect one or both feet, and can be permanent or temporary, depending on the cause. There are numerous possible causes for foot drop, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, some forms of spinal muscular atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), injury to the nerve roots in the spine, acquired peripheral neuropathy (often associated with diabetes), or compression or damage to the peroneal nerve in the lower leg.

People with foot drop typically experience mobility difficulty because without intervention, they often scuff their toes along the ground, swing their leg to the side as they walk, or bend their knees to lift their foot higher than usual, causing an uncomfortable walking motion called a “steppage” gait.

As she recovered from her surgery seven years ago, Beth tried the molded plastic orthotic braces often prescribed to remedy foot drop. Finding the devices too heavy and cumbersome to permit full mobility, Beth feared her running days were over. “The prospect of losing an important part of my life because of foot drop was extremely depressing,” Beth says.

In an exhaustive search for options that would prevent foot drop from diminishing her quality of life, Beth eventually found the ToeOFF brace manufactured by Allard USA. It is a technologically advanced, carbon fiber orthotic device designed to mimic the biophysical movement of the muscles in her legs and feet. The results were dramatic; after four months training with the new brace, Beth ran the Chicago Marathon in the lowest time she had ever recorded for a 26.2 mile race.

Beth says, however, that her return to the running circuit has significance that goes beyond how well she competes in the events. “I know from personal experience,” she says, “the importance of preventing foot drop from taking away the things you want to do in life.”

Beth will kick off her 20-race schedule on January 15 in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona event in Phoenix.

About Allard USA
Allard USA is a subsidiary of Allard International, recognized worldwide as a leader of innovative orthotic devices, privately owned by Peter Allard and based in Helsingborg, Sweden. Allard USA is committed to working together with Orthotic and Prosthetic facilities and medical professionals throughout North America to offer innovative orthotic solutions that will help improve function and quality of life for individuals with physical challenges.


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Steve Powell
Allard USA
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