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Robotics for Rehabilitation, Biomechanics and Technologies in Sports Medicine: scientific and technological opportunities and challenges

28 March 2019
3:00 pm
San Francesco Complex - Classroom 2

A better understanding of the neural substrates that underlie motor recovery after neurological impairments (such as stroke and spinal cord injury) has led to the development of innovative rehabilitation strategies and tools that incorporate key
elements of motor skill re-learning such as intensive motor training involving goal-oriented repeated movements. Robotic devices for the upper limb and gait are increasingly used in rehabilitation: several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of these devices in reducing motor impairments, but only limited evidence has been found on the improvement of upper limb and gait function so far.
Other studies have investigated the effects of combined approaches that target muscle function (e.g., functional electrical stimulation), modulate neural activity (e.g., noninvasive brain stimulation) and enhance motivation (e.g., Virtual Reality) to
enhance the benefits of robot-assisted training.
Sports are part of human society, and they contribute to fulfil human expectations for performance and excitement, to promote self-satisfaction and esteem, and to provide considerable impact on economy, directly and indirectly.
Sports are also good to promote healthy lifestyle in a large part of the population, including the elderly, and healthy lifestyle has major influence on economy. In fact, good health is recognised as a very effective Engine for Economic Growth.
Science and technology provide very effective tools to make sports and physical exercise an exciting and effective experience for virtually the entire population. Sport biomechanics, for example, is the science of explaining how and why the
human body moves in the way that it does, with the aims of minimising the risk of injury and of improving sports performance. It includes the description, detailed analysis and assessment of human movement during physical activities.
A wide range of technologies (including wearable sensors, IMUs and robotics) are available today to make physical activities more enjoyable, exciting and performing, for performance assessment, and for personalized training programmes.
Technologies can also provide new tools to include the disabled in many athletic activities and can contribute to the development of novel and very effective rehabilitation procedures that make recovery after injury faster and more effective.
In this presentation, the above issues will be presented and discussed in detail andan overview of the status of robot-assisted therapies and combined treatments will be discussed together with an analysis of the rationale behind them. Specific
examples on the use of biomechanics and of advanced technology will be illustrated for the cases of respiratory response to exercise of elite soccer players, quantitative assessment of professional boxers performance, prevention of ankle injuries in
skydiving and fencing biomechanics in paralympic athletes.
Finally, the bioengineering challenges of the next decade will be presented.

Stefano Mazzoleni, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna