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Amputee is first European to get hi-tech bionic foot
A MAN who lost a leg after a crash has become the first amputee in Europe to be fitted with a new bionic foot.
Cowley cyclist Jozef Metelka had his left leg amputated below the knee after his motorcycle was involved in an accident with a car in Twelve Acre Drive, Abingdon, in March 2009.
Now, thanks to a revolutionary bionic device, he is able to walk much more easily.
It means the cyclist can compete with even more vigour in semi-professional road races.
The former Oxford Brookes student said: “It makes a huge difference.
“This virtually feels like my ankle has grown back.
“It is a really amazing piece of kit.”
The £55,000 American BiOM power-assisted ankle system is designed to allow him to walk faster and use less energy.
The device provides artificial muscle and tendon power that allows amputees to walk with the same effort and function as non-amputees.
Those behind its creation say that other prosthetic ankles are often just a foot attached to a solid post.
They say that no other designs are able to reproduce the sensation of having an ankle.
The BiOM has been in development for six years and has been fitted to several hundred amputees in the US and Canada, but has only just become available in the UK.
Mr Metelka said: “It means I don’t have to work so hard to walk and I don’t have to use that much energy, because it produces the energy for me.
“I would get tired far, far more quickly without it.
“Because it makes me more symmetrical, it is how my body would behave with a normal foot.”
As well as cycling, Mr Metelka is training to be a ski instructor. He said: “I try to focus as much of my energy towards these high-level activities, so it’s important that I rest when I can.
“Using the BiOM foot for everyday use allows me to use less energy.
“It’s unlike any other design I have tried. It’s as if my leg has come alive again.”
The foot’s design, invented by double leg amputee Prof Hugh Herr, was developed at the leg laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mr Metelka’s prosthetist at Pace Rehabilitation, which fitted the leg, is Jamie Gillespie, himself a leg amputee.
Mr Gillespie said: “It’s unlikely that Jozef will leap over tall buildings in a single bound with this new powered foot, or break any sporting records, but he now has the opportunity to walk with a more normal gait, using less energy.
“As a young guy, it’s important that we consider what the long-term affect of using a prosthesis will have on his body as a whole.
“These improvements to his movement will reduce the wear and tear on Jozef and hopefully keep him performing at a high level in sport and work until much later in life.
“The current cost of the BiOM power-assisted ankle system is extremely high and we appreciate that it will only be available to the fortunate few.
“However, we hope that future developments will allow more accessibility for a greater number of amputees who will surely benefit from this design.”
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