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Artificial limbs from Pune centre help turn the wounded into blade runners

Endo-skeletal limbs are now being imported and fitted at the armed forces’ ALC in Pune

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
December 19, 2011 2:55:32 am

Endo-skeletal limbs,the kind worn by ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius,are now being imported and fitted at the armed forces’ Artificial Limb Centre (ALC) in Pune. And the results are showing,be it in a marathoner who used one of these carbon fibre flex feet to slash his half-marathon timing by 35 minutes recently,or in another athlete who won gold and silver medals at national badminton championships.

The performance across disciplines has prompted the ALC to push a proposal that the Army have its own Paralympics team.

In the last two years,high-energy feet have been worn by several who want to train for competitive sports. At the ALC workshop,sockets are now being accurately designed for each limb so that the imported knee joints can fit well and provide a better swing speed and absorb the impact of contact with the ground. Just two months ago,a flex-run foot was imported and fitted on New Delhi-based Major D P Singh (retd),who ran the 21-km half-marathon in 2 hr 40 min last month,snipping 35 minutes off his own timing.

“I lost my right leg during Operation Vijay in 1999 and got an artificial leg made of carbon fibre at the ALC. I wanted a blade like the one South African sprinter and double amputee Oscar Pistorius used. The Army supported my demand and I found a huge difference in running during the fourth marathon on November 27 at Delhi,”says Singh.

The Army is observing 2011 as the year of the disabled. “These are our heroes who have bounced back from mine blast or mortar shell injuries with new limbs provided by ALC. Not only is there intense pyschological counselling but the centre has also updated its equipment with better technology available to prepare them for competitive sports,“says Brigadier D C Agarwal,commandant of ALC.

Col Nina Chatterjee,deputy commandant,says 37,000 patients (both civilians and armed forces personnel) are listed for a constant follow-up. From January till October,ALC has manufactured 734 artificial limbs for Army personnel and 341 for civilians,1,025 sacral belts and more than 9,000 accessories like crutches,walking sticks and wheelchairs.

Several athletes have benefited from carbon fibre,spring lite feet like Major D D Goel,who was injured in a mine blast during Operation Parakram in 2002 and then took up paragliding. Lt Col A R Ramakrishnan runs national-level half-marathons. Major N K Bhandari is parasailing. Major S P Singh went on to win gold and silver medals at the national badminton paralympic championships in April.

The proposal for the Army’s own paralympic team is getting support from various quarters. Commandant of Army Sports Institute Col R S Bishnoi says,“We will definitely encourage these talented sportspersons and have also guided them during their training for marathons.”

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