Stretch and Exercise Station

Designers: Jason Cooper, Matthew Gart
Client Coordinators: Barbara Howard
Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

Our client, a nine-year old girl, has a form of cerebral palsy that affects only her legs and causes spasms and stiffness.  The goal of this project was to provide her with a stretching and exercise machine that would improve her strength and flexibility, and thereby aid in her self-sufficiency.  This was accomplished by modifying an existing weight bench to meet our client’s specific needs.  The completed station provides four exercises and can be used daily with only minimal assistance from an adult caregiver.  Two passive stretches are supported, a hamstring stretch and an abductor stretch, as well as two active exercises, a quadriceps extension and a hip raise.

How this project helped
The client’s cerebral palsy causes both of her legs to spasm and stiffen. Physical therapy focusing on leg stretches and exercises is the current intervention employed.  Our client’s physical therapist makes weekly visits to assist with stretches and exercises; however, these activities now can now be performed daily.  The client’s physical therapist says that, “The stretching and exercise station has allowed [the client] to be an active participant in her therapy.  She is able to invent her own exercises and enjoys being somewhat in charge of her stretching activities.”  She also states that the device helps “improve the client’s level of independence and cooperation in that part of treatment which is not always fun.”

Figure 1 shows the completed design, which involved modifying a commercial weight bench.  The factory lat tower was modified to provide a hamstring stretch by changing the angle of the tower and adding a ratcheted leg lifting mechanism.  A pulley system provides a 2:1 mechanical advantage and allows the client to easily raise her leg to a secure position.  Safety bars on both sides of the bench seat, coated with rubber, allow the client to traverse the length of the bench without involving her legs.  The bars also act as handholds during exercise and help with mounting and dismounting from the bench seat.

An abductor wedge was designed for placement between our client’s legs during the abductor stretch.  This wedge positions her legs at an appropriate angle for maximizing the benefits of the stretch.  A bracket was placed on the bottom of the wedge so that it can be mounted on the vertical lat tower bar and act as a cushion to prevent the client from accidentally bumping her head on the bar during other exercises (see Figure 1).

The original arm curl support was modified to serve as an incentive tray.  The incentive tray holds any item with the use of industrial Velcro and guide pins.  Figure 2 shows the client doing an abductor stretch with a keyboard attached as an incentive.

The leg exercise L-bar, which is used for the quadriceps extension and hip raise, was modified with additional position holes.  These holes allow the foam support pad bars to be placed in multiple configurations allowing the device to grow as our client grows.  We also added a quick release pin so the L-bar can easily be removed when not in use.  Finally, a wheel was added at the base of the lat tower so the bench can be moved easily, and industrial felt pads were placed on the bench feet to protect floor surfaces.

The cost of parts for the project was approximately $400.

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