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The Steadward Centre Visits London!



January 15 - 21, 2006 proved to be an eventful week for the Steadward Centre as a few of our staff had the opportunity to visit London (England) for a whirlwind trip.  The trip was planned with the goal of providing the Steadward Centre team more knowledge with regards to FES rowing and it's beneficial applications.  The trip proved to be a roaring success.  Look for the Steadward Centre's FES rowing program to drastically improve in the near future!

Below are some pictures/videos from the trip:

Sarah Orr is the first woman in the world to participate in FES rowing!  Click the image to see her in action!


Kevin Brooks being set up for FES rowing.  Click the image to see him in action!


Meet the fastest FES rower in the world!  Click the image to see him in action!


What is FES Rowing?

A lesion in the spinal nerves leads often to extensive paralysis in the lower body and in some cases also the upper body. Although there is basically nothing wrong with the muscles, long term disuse due to the inability to activate the muscles, leads to a series of de-conditioning conditions. These form a major threat to the health of persons with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), one can think of impaired blood circulation in the lower body, decreased bone mineral density in the legs, reduced tissue vitality and seriously elevated risk factors for obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

The paralysed muscles of most persons with a Spinal Cord Injury can be activated by a special stimulator that sends electrical pulses to the muscle via special electrodes placed on the skin over the targeted muscle. This technique is called Functional Electrical Stimulation aka FES.

A project lead by researchers from Brunel University in West-London and The Steadward Centre in Edmonton (Canada), have integrated FES with a normal Concept 2 rowing ergometer. Besides the stimulator, the seat has been adapted to provide sufficient postural support for rowers with impaired balance (as is the case in most persons with Spinal Cord Injury). The movement of the legs is triggered by pressing or releasing a switch on the handle bar that controls the stimulator. Pressing the switch leads to contraction of the quadriceps in the drive phase and releasing the switch activates the hamstrings during the recovery phase. Since the timing of this stimulation is controlled by the rower himself, he can synchronize the action of the legs with the movement of his upper body.

This enables paraplegic rowers to perform a full rowing motion, just like any able-bodied rower. Potentially this has many health benefits for persons with Spinal Cord Injury since FES-rowing is the only exercise currently available for persons with Spinal Cord Injury whereby their whole body is involved. This is important as only then, high intensities can be reached and these are essential in a healthy life style.

Besides these health benefits, FES-rowing also opens up the opportunity for full inclusion of athletes with Spinal Cord Injury into mainstream competitions. FES enables rowers with Spinal Cord Injury to compete on an equal basis with able-bodied rowers



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