Four Paralyzed Men Able to Move Legs, Feet with Electrode Therapy

| by Michael Allen

Four paralyzed men (from the waist down) are able to move their legs and feet after an electrical device was implanted in their spines at the University of Louisville's Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

According to the Associated Press, when the implanted device near their spine is activated with electrical impulses, the men could move their toes, lift their legs and stand briefly.

This study is a breakthrough because electrical impulses travel along the men's skin bypassing their damaged nerves, which have not been repaired.

“The result of this study has been really exciting news for these four patients, which is that spinal cord injury may no longer mean a lifelong sentence of complete paralysis,” Dr. Roderic Pettigrew, of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institute of Health (which co-funded the study), told

The study included Rob Summers, a former Oregon State Beavers' baseball player who was the first to start the electrode therapy back in 2009.

After seven months of electrode and physical therapy, Summers was able to stand without assistance and move his legs to some degree.

Summers was also able to gain control over his bladder, bowel and sexual functions.

The other three men in the study include: Kent Stephenson (pictured), a Motocross racer, Andrew Meas and Dustin Shillcox.

Dr. Susan Harkema, who led the study, told Reuters, "One of the things this research shows is that there is more potential for spinal cord injury patients to recover even without this electrical stimulation."

"Today, patients are not given rehab because they are not considered 'good investments,'" added Dr. Harkema. "We should rethink what they're offered, because rehabilitation can drive recovery for many more than are receiving it."

"We believe there is still a capacity for recovery. It's not necessarily the case that you will never move again."

Sources: Reuters,, Associated Press