New Technology Helps Those With Spinal Cord Injuries Regain Mobility

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Jerrod Kerr Walks Again After a Year of Struggle

I have a little niece who was born a week after my accident, and we have been having a race to see who walks first. She won.

Jerrod Kerr, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a vehicle accident, recently rode his wheelchair into a South Florida rehab clinic. Thirty minutes later he walked to the front door, using new robotic technology.

A wearable exoskeleton, called ReWalk, it provides powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with spinal cord injury to stand upright, walk, turn, and climb or descend stairs. It is the only FDA cleared exoskeleton for rehabilitation in the U.S.

The battery-powered system uses motors at the hip and knee joints to control movement using subtle changes in the user’s center of gravity. A forward tilt of the upper body is sensed by the system, which initiates the first step. Repeated body shifting generates a sequence of steps which mimics the natural gait of the legs, allowing normal walking speed.

“It was very strange at first trying to adapt to the system, especially since I had not been able to use my legs for more than a year,” Kerr said. “However, in less than an hour, I got the hang of it, and the more I used it, the more comfortable it felt.”

The Incidence of Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Spinal cord injuries affect between four and five million Americans per year, and about 300,000 people in the U.S. are living with spinal cord injuries for the long term. According to the Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center, nearly a third of all spinal cord injuries are caused by job-related accidents, a quarter are caused by vehicular accidents, and nearly 20% are caused by sporting/recreational accidents. But the really negative impact these injuries have is financial. According to the University of Alabama National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center:

  •     Average yearly expenses can range from $228,566 to $775,567 in the first year.
  •     Estimated lifetime costs due to spinal cord injury can range from $681,843 to over $3 million for a 25 year old.

Studies have shown that this new technology will help paraplegics with overall health by reducing the risk of osteoporosis, improving bladder function, circulation and cardiovascular health, as well as giving them upright mobility.

Jerrod Kerr is not the typical person to use this new technology, because he was educated as a mechanical engineer, thus he knew the benefits of using the device. He also knew that if he had any hope of ever walking again on his own it was going to be a long, grueling journey. Prior to his accident he was a physical fitness buff and continues regular exercise routines at a non-profit exercise facility in Miami called iAM ABLE Fitness which strengthened his upper body and core.

Consistent with his willingness to help others, Jerrod is involved in developing a public service advertising campaign to help people with spinal cord injuries. “I have a little niece who was born a week after my accident, and we have been having a race to see who walks first. She won.”

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Bill Goodwill