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Van Den Bogert, Ton
05-19-2008, 01:31 AM
Chris Kirtley wrote:

> However, I also have a feeling that the prostheses are the
> thin end of the wedge that began with Speedo swimsuits. It
> seems to me difficult to block any future device or appliance
> once one is admitted. It is conceptually similar to the use
> of drugs in sport.

Some relevant excerpts from the May 17 article in the NY Times
(www.nytimes.com):

"It's not just about me," Pistorius said in a telephone interview from
Milan. "It's about the extra opportunity for amputee athletes."

But on the other hand, it was reported that:

"...the wording of the ruling appeared to caution against extrapolation,
clearly stating that it "has absolutely no application to any other
athlete, or other type of prosthetic limb. Each case must be considered
by the I.A.A.F. on its own merits." "

So they have been careful and no extra opportunity has really been
created. It may well be that they allowed Pistorius to compete because
he he is not expected to qualify for the Olympics. The hard decision
has (unfortunately) been avoided but the problem will certainly return.
Maybe the IAAF hopes for a more clear evidence of technological
advantage in the next case, or a better consensus among scientists by
that time.

Hugh Herr stated (quoted today by Jamie Carruthers on Biomch-L): "People
have always thought the human body is the ideal. It's not." I agree.
High Herr testified on behalf of Pistorius but it sounds like he may
eventually present the opposite viewpoint.

I fully expect that it will only be a matter of time before users of
prosthetic feet will no longer be allowed to compete with able-bodied
runners, just like wheelchair users.

> The "scientific" evaluation seems to me nothing more than the
> philosophical opinions of two camps: the Bruggemann-led
> purists (who I side with, but not for the scientific reasons
> they put forward) versus the Herr-led prosthetists. I really
> cannot see how this arguement can be settled by scientific
> data - although like many of you I am immensely excited by the debate!

I side with the purists also, but like Chris, for theoretical reasons
and not because of any data I have seen.

Unlike Chris, however, I think we will eventually see convincing data.
If we, as biomechanists, can't study this and agree on a conclusion, our
field of science does not make a good impression. We are all at risk of
not being taken seriously. Will the public now start questioning the
validity of gait analysis methodology? Will they question our ability
to contribute to the development of prostheses and quantify how good
they are? Yes, I know that sprinting is much harder to analyze than
gait, but this distinction may be lost on the general public (and some
grant reviewers, perhaps).

It is technically challenging, but let's rise to the challenge. Here is
a real world problem that actually matters, not an academic problem
where different opinions can happily co-exist.

A good scientific discussion is hardly possible at this time, because
none of the data have been published yet. If after publication and
discussion, there is still no consensus, we should at least agree on how
the next study should be done and how the hypothesis should be tested.

I have asked Rodger Kram if he can post anything to Biomch-L, but no
answer yet. I suspect that both research teams prefer not to discuss
prior to publication.

--

Ton van den Bogert, Biomch-L co-moderator
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Cleveland Clinic Foundation



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