K Dhamodharan, Karthik K, and Aravind RM – three college students set out to create a tech-solution to help their friend suffering from foot drop. Little did they know how their small step would turn out to be a revolutionary invention that will benefit the masses.
What is foot drop?
Foot drop is a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot. If you have foot drop, the front of your foot might drag on the ground when you walk. It is often caused by squashing (compression) of the nerve that controls the muscles that lift the foot. Sometimes nerves around the knee or lower spine can become trapped, (via NHS)
The Back Story
Every year there are many such cases which occur worldwide with help from physiotherapy and surgery. However, the problem with both is the cost it carries. Not everyone is able to afford either the surgery or the physiotherapy session. One such story is of Shiva, a football player from Chennai. He sustained a serious ankle injury while playing that consequently led to a foot drop. He consulted a physiotherapy centre in order to get cured. Sadly he was charged for about Rs. 300 per session. The amount was too expensive for him as his family was financially weak and suffered a lot.
At this point, his friends Karthik M, K Dhamodharan and Aravind RM thought to help him out. The three of them were engineering students and hence decided to put their expertise to use. This became their immediate project. The main objective was clear. To create an effective, low cost, easily usable self-help tool for the bedridden patients of foot drop.
A detailed study of previously available physiotherapy devices was made. After due discussion and research, they had an extensive list of features they wish to imbibe into their product. After months of testing, they developed an affordable, automated ankle rehabilitation device in 2019. The device is made of splint, crank, motor and uses a power window motor for movement, due to which it produces less vibration and cuts out the pain. Their device can cure the foot drop. All it needs is a 20 minutes session per day. Interestingly, the device is self-help. Implying one does not need any special expertise to use it and is extremely portable. It reduces the pain of giving
exorbitant fee for physiotherapy and gives more efficient recovery.
The prototyping phase was conducted in partnership with a few local hospitals. Initial trials on patients gave the team sufficient insights and review to upgrade the product. It was only after consecutive successful trials that they put the product for the public.
Awards and Recognition
The trio won the 3M-CII YICA 2020 award for their innovation. The award is an important milestone in their journey. “An award brings credibility and opens doors to new opportunities. This will really help us convert our small project into a scalable product,” says Kartik M. The team is currently making the most of the awarded resources to make sideways movement possible in the ankle rehabilitation device itself. The cash prize from the 3M award will definitely go a long way and be used to further innovate and produce more such devices which benefit masses at an affordable rate.
When asked whether it would be an apt substitute to a physiotherapist and existing braces, Kartik sounds affirmative. “Yes, it will be. The product has been made in such a manner that one will need no one but self to use the device. So far their device has been used by three people and all of them have been successfully cured.” he mentions. The innovation because of it’s portability and affordability can be used even in remote areas. In fact, the team mentions that the device is often used by people in villages who cannot go to regular therapy in cities.