This should not be construed as medical advice. I am a retired Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.
Oscar Ristorius, a double amputee is running in the Olympics. Oscar Pistorius makes Olympic history in 400m at London 2012
. His lower limb prostheses set off controversy initially banning him from this competition. Then they made an exception for him alone missing the opportunity to set a precedents for other amputees. Those missing extremities from trauma, war, cancer face daunting challenges enough in normal life and activities. Forcing them to apply for new exceptions makes little sense.
Many commenters have it right, it is about the Olympic athlete spirit: 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius has an edge, all right -- his spirit
and Column: Pistorius Revolutionizes Olympic Notions
The blades are called Cheetahs or the Flex-Foot®, and are available from Icelandic company Össur. They were invented by Californian Van Phillips
as discussed inOscar Pistorius the athlete and his prosthetic legs
. You can read about the patent and prosthetic.
The story alone about Oscar Pistorius
is inspirational. Rising about the defect, the loss of the legs, and becoming the best athlete he can.
But why argue about a body part replacement? That a track shoe enhances the normal foots traction against the surface, protects the skin from a pebble or object that might cause pain, or change the angle of the bones to improve speed. Swimsuit technology changes the body resistance passing through water speeding swimmers, goggles permit vision in water beyond the eye natural ability to deal with the chemicals in the water. What about the tools of sport such as the tennis racket, baseball bat, and glove. They are all extensions of the human body to enable it to perform sports. Why not consider the prosthetic in the same manner.
But then again, what if the science of the body assistance technology were to continue to advance. Should the super robot enabled body part be permitted for the non disabled athlete? What if we were able to create part or the whole Iron Man
exoskeleton body prosthesis? Should all athletes then be forces to have their own bodysuit?
But we are there today. Not all can afford the money spent on technology for swimsuits that some put into the sports. Should a country that can afford to measure the different clothing configurations in a swimming tank or bicycle test wind tunnel be permitted to outfit their athletes with such devices without sharing them with those who cannot afford them? Or, should there be a rule, that any clothing gear shoe or other assistive device be available all competitors? There has to be some way to measure this technology is a reasonable and logical fashion. While I don't want to see the Olympics degenerating into a race of the best robots, there has to be a way to permit the disadvantage to compete without going through hoops forced upon this particular athlete.
There is a whole world of individuals out there partially working arms legs hands and feet, not just amputees. What if we had the technology to have created the missing congenital tissue that forced his surgeon to have amputated this athletes legs? What is reconstructive surgery would have offered bio identical bone and restore function to that child's late obviating the amputations?
Perhaps someone can add to this thread details about the competitive rules. If low friction clothing is permitted, why aren't swim fins permitted? Are the rules against sensor enhancements? Can we permit an athlete wear a headset that would give them instant awareness of where the other competitors are in the race? Some sports are allowing their quarterbacks communication with their coaches.We're not that far away from headgear that would permit instant update of where the competitors are, vision enhancement, or how that ground is coming up in the ski jump, and coaches input. Science-fiction leads us to a readout of what our body metabolism reserves are and those of the competition.
To give an amputee the ability to compete in the Olympics, how wonderful! An inspiration to what else can be achieved?
Hope this helps,
Michael Bermant, MD
Retired Plastic SurgeonLearn More About Reconstructive Plastic Surgery