Cycling again despite quadriplegia? This is the feat accomplished by the researcher, a cyclist until the fateful day a car hit him as he pedaled to work, breaking his neck and damaging his spinal cord. Since that day (February 7, 2013), this physics researcher at the École normale supérieure de Lyon has been incomplete quadriplegic, that is to say he has not entirely lost the mobility of his limbs (he can move the arms, but no longer has the grip of the hands or the mobility of the legs). But that did not stop him and today he is cycling again thanks to a technology he is now an expert in, functional electrical stimulation. Technology with which he and his laboratory participated in (the Olympics for people with disabilities using high-tech devices, which took place in 2016) which also included other technologies, such as, motorized wheelchairs, prosthetic arms or even robotic legs or brain-machine interfaces. In 2020, the competition took place on November 13th and 14th (remotely due to the pandemic) and it was the Dutch team Pulse racing that won the discipline of cycling by functional electrical stimulation.

What is functional electrical stimulation?

This technology was created in 1982 by Jerrold Petrofsky, then professor of physical therapy at Wright State University (Ohio, USA). And as the name suggests, it stimulates muscles with electrical currents to restore functionality in people with damaged central nervous systems, such as paraplegics and quadriplegics. In other words, this technique allows you to bypass a spinal cord or a nerve that no longer transmits the electrical signal sent by the brain to stimulate a given muscle. “It’s the same principle as the belts for doing sit-ups without moving from your sofa[…]

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