Team Cleveland Makes History and Wins the Gold in World's First "Cyborg Olympics"
A paralyzed man pedaled his way to victory in the first ever Cybathlon, which combines disabled individuals with the latest in assistive technology
October 8, 2016
Zurich, Switzerland – In front of a sold out arena of 7,624 fans, Mark Muhn pedaled his way to victory in a record time of 2:58, beating his opponent by an incredible 1:10, in the functional electrical stimulation bike race at the first international Cybathlon (“Cyborg Olympics”). Paralyzed by a spinal cord injury and powered by contractions of his own muscles activated by surgically implanted neural stimulators developed at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University, Muhn rode a recumbent Catrike® in head-to-head races around a 750 m track at the SWISS Arena in Kloten, Switzerland.
The Cybathlon is an international competition featuring events in six disciplines with physically disabled athletes using assistive technology, including arm and leg prosthetics, brain-computer interfaces, bike races using neural stimulation, power wheelchairs, and exoskeletons.
Team Cleveland, led by Dr. Ronald J. Triolo of the Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Research Center at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University, was one of 12 international stimulation-driven biking teams competing in the Cybathlon. Team Cleveland competed against teams from all over the world including Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, US and UK.
In the preliminary heat, Muhn led MYOLYN (USA)’s Kevin Edward Gnehm off the ramps and crossed the finish line with an impressive time of 2:52, a full 3:56 over his opponent. Muhn started the finals heat strong and lapped his opponent, Berkel Bike (UK)'s Johnny Beer Timms, finishing with 2:58 over Beer Timms’s 4:08.
The gold medal ceremony (Team Cleveland, center)
The enabling technology used by Team Cleveland applies small electrical currents to the nerves in the trunk, hips and legs to cause the otherwise paralyzed muscles to contract. For the Cybathlon competition, Muhn’s Catrike® was customized with special sensors that relayed the position of the rotating pedals to a small wearable computer that coordinated delivery of electrical pulses that caused his legs to extend and retract to approximate a cycling pattern. During competitive qualifying time trials against three other pilots in July, Muhn and alternate pilot Michael McClellan took the top 2 spots, coming in at 3:34 and 3:14, respectively.
After the ceremony, Dr. Triolo was quoted saying, “I’m extremely proud of Mark, Michael and our team for all their hard work and we’re excited to bring back to Cleveland another Championship! The Cybathlon is an amazing opportunity to showcase our research program. This is a tribute to our sponsors and the strength of our program and the dynamic collaboration between Case and the VA. What we have accomplished today invigorates us and pushes us to continue looking for and developing new technologies to help veterans and individuals with spinal cord injury.”
In addition to Muhn, McClellan and Dr. Triolo, representatives of Team Cleveland that traveled to Zurich included Lisa Lombardo (physical therapist), Kevin Foglyano (biomedical engineer), and Dr. Paul Marasco (team race mechanic and neuroscientist). Support for Team Cleveland was provided by the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland VA Medical Research and Education Foundation, and the Laboratory for Bionic Integration. Visit the TeamCLE Cybathlon page for more details about Team Cleveland.
About the Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Research Center:
The APT Center is one of 17 designated Centers in the Rehabilitation Research and Development (RR&D) Service of the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Established in 2005 as a collaboration between the Cleveland VA and Case Western, the APT Center focuses on the medical needs of disabled veterans, and translating them into viable clinical options. For additional information about the APT Center, please follow the link: http://www.aptcenter.research.va.gov/
About the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center:
The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center has 18 locations of care in Northeast Ohio, providing access to health care to more than 112,000 Veterans across 24 counties. The VA is dedicated to providing high quality, technologically current, compassionate, accessible care with the support of its 4,600 employees, local, state and federal representatives, service organizations and many other local and national partners. Visit www.cleveland.va.gov to learn more.
About Case Western Reserve University:
Case Western Reserve University is one of the country's leading private research institutions. Our nationally recognized programs include arts and sciences, dental medicine, engineering, law, management, medicine, nursing and social work. About 5,100 undergraduate and 6,200 graduate students comprise our student body. Visit case.edu to see how Case Western Reserve thinks beyond the possible.
Rebecca Polito, Communications Specialist
APT Research Center, Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center
216-791-3800 x5264 firstname.lastname@example.org
Gold medal winners Mark Muhn
and Dr. Ronald Triolo
Gold medal award ceremony
(ETH Zurich / Nicola Pitaro)