An Innovation in Prosthetic Adapters for Rugged Activities

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After meeting people in burn units in Iraq and talking to individuals with upper-limb amputations and learning of their struggles, M. Ben Saadon was struck by the impact their injuries had on their ability to accomplish around the house and on the job. One of the needs the people identified for him was the ability to effectively use power tools and yard equipment—so he set out to create a solution.

Saadon says the development  was a passion project for him. "At one point in my life, I was faced with the hard reality of possibly being crippled for the rest of my life. And later I had to fight to overcome cancer, so I could definitely identify, in a small way, to what they experience," he says.

From that inspiration the LifeWork Adapter (LWA) system was born. While there are other solutions to help people with upper-limb loss effectively use tools such as cutting blades, rakes, and shovels, they often require an additional terminal device (TD) beyond the user's daily use device. In researching available options, Saadon says he did not find a solution that allowed users to safely manage the movement of a machine, or part of one, from one predetermined position to another to carry out a sequence of operations (indexing) while using not only power tools but hand tools and an array of recreational equipment. He also wanted to create a device that would allow the user to safely grip tools at the desired angle and be able to release them easily.

The LWA system, which has just received a utility patent, is designed to be used with a Hosmer-style hook and contains two basic components, the lock that attaches to the equipment and the key that allows for varying angles so the user can index the tool. Unlike an activity-specific TD, people can use the LWA kit with a variety of power tools and home improvement equipment, without having to change from their usual TD.

As with any invention though, there were stumbling blocks. Saadon says, "I thought I had come up with a solution and then had to take a step back and adjust. I realized I had to make the tool fit the user not the user fit the tool. I was approaching the solution by making adjustments to the user's arm. This was not allowing me to take into account how to index the object in a user-friendly capacity."

The LWA team partnered with Dylan Herd who has a unilateral upper-limb amputation during testing on the adapter system. Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCrFIJ3FxQ8&t=10s to watch him demonstrating the adapter in use. The team is currently partnering with rehabilitation professionals and prosthetists for further feedback and plans to launch the product commercially later this year.