Published On: Wed, Sep 6th, 2017

Spanish Real Sociedad Soccer Club Uses Israeli Groundbreaking Physiotherapy Device

BGU: "BalanceTutor is being used to help players on Spain’s Real Sociedad soccer club 's team improve their balance and their dexterity in unexpected situations."


Every season, Real Sociedad soccer club bears the economic burden of 900 cumulative days of sick leave per team due to injuries. Now, a system invented by two Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) scientists is in the use of the club’s trainers and therapists to rehabilitate soccer players and expose them to unexpected perturbations at the final stages of rehabilitation.

The system, BalanceTutor, uses a patented 4D treadmill, numerous power, and movement sensors.
The device was originally developed and built to measure the balancing capabilities of seniors, to train them to prevent falls and to rehabilitate them after injurious falls.
“Traditional rehabilitation is based on self-initiated ‘proactive’ training,” says developer Prof. Itshak Melzer. “Our robotic device trains the reactive responses, such as the corrective injury-preventing reflex-like responses to a slip or other conditions that unexpectedly displace the balance and equilibrium; with the emphasis being on unexpected.”

When Prof. Melzer came to the Robotics Laboratory at BGU to look for a partner, he ran into Prof. Amir Shapiro who turned out to have a personal interest in the topic: at the age of 31, Prof. Shapiro slipped in his garden and suffered a broken spine. “I have four screws and a metal plate connecting my head to my body as befitting a professor of robotics,” he jokes.
“Anyone – seniors, people with neurological conditions (such as stroke survivors, Parkinson’s and MS patients), vestibular challenges and even athletes – can benefit from balance training that simulates an unexpected loss of balance,” he adds.
“Initially we licensed the invention to improve the health and well-being of seniors,” says Zafrir Levi, VP Business Development at the BGU technology company. “One in three people over 65 sustains a major fall and 20% of these turn into a permanent injury – a major medical and financial burden that BalanceTutor can help prevent and alleviate.”
“Yet once the product was commercialized new opportunities opened up including sports – as often happens when academic research reaches the market,” adds Levi.
According to Prof. Melzer, many balance training programs for athletes appear to ignore the basic principles of physical training and exercise physiology. “BalanceTutor helps strengthen the players’ specific muscles that are related to balance reflexes in areas such as the knee, hip and ankle joints, thus reducing injuries and sick time.”
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