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Publication numberUS3824994 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 23, 1974
Filing dateJan 29, 1973
Priority dateJan 29, 1973
Publication numberUS 3824994 A, US 3824994A, US-A-3824994, US3824994 A, US3824994A
InventorsSoderberg R
Original AssigneeR S Reciprocating Trainer Ente
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Reciprocating walker
US 3824994 A
Abstract
A walker in which an individual secured at the waist and having both feet attached to movable footboards is caused to undergo a complete reciprocating walking action in which the feet, angles, legs, hips and arms all move in normal walking fashion. Each footboard is centrally hinged to define a forward portion supporting the ball of the foot and a rearward portion supporting the heel of the foot and movable independent of the forward portion to create the up-down heel motion experienced in walking. The footboards which are coupled to endless chains so as to be reciprocatingly driven through endless cyclic loops of motion also include brackets secured to the rearward portions for bending and straightening the knees during the walking motion. The frame of the walker may be mounted on independently driven belts and control apparatus added to make the walker drivable by the individual across a surface at variable speeds and in variable directions.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United; States I Patent [191 Soderberg, Sr.

[ RECIPROCATING WALKER [7 5] lnventor: Raymond Henry Soderberg, Sr.,

Panorama City, Calif.

[73] Assignee: R. S. Reciprocating Trainer Enterprises, Inc., North Hollywood, Calif.

[22] Filed: Jan. 29, 1973 [21] Appl. No.: 327,795

[52] US. Cl 128/25 R [51] Int. Cl A61h 1/02 [58] Field of Search 128/25 R, 25 B, 33, 24, 128/48, 49

[56] References Cited 7 UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,892,455 6/1959 Hutton 128/25 R 2,969,060 l/l96l Swanda 128/25 R Primary Examiner-Lawrence W. Trapp Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Fraser and Bogucki i451 July 23, 1974 [5 7] ABSTRACT A walker in which an individual secured at the waist and having both feet attached to movable footboards is caused to undergo a complete reciprocating walking action in which the feet, angles, legs, hips and arms all move in normal walking fashion. Each footboard is centrally hinged to define a forward portion supporting the ball oftiie foot and a rearward portion supporting the heel of the foot and movable independent of the forward portion to create the up-down heel motion experienced in walking. The footboards which are coupled to endless chains so as to be reciprocatingly driven through endless cyclic loops of motion also include brackets secured to the rearward portions for bending and straightening the knees during the walking motion. The frame of the walker may be mounted a on independently driven belts and control apparatus added to make the walker drivable by the individual 24 Claims, 10 Drawing Figures PATENTEDJULZZHSH 3,824,884

SHEET 2 [If 4' I PATENTEMmzamn saw u or 4 FIG.6A

FIG. 6B

1 RECIPROCATING WALKER BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention relates to physical training and exercising machines or devices, and more particularly to walkers of the type which move the feet or legs of a physically or mentally handicapped individual through at least a partial walking motion for training or exercise purposes.

2. History of the Prior Art Certain physically or mentally handicapped persons may have a greatly reduced ability to walk or may not be able to walk at all. For some of these persons the situation is such that training or exercising will have little or no benefit. For many, however, the ability to walk may simply be a matter of teaching the individual the proper motor coordination so as to overcome the initial obstacle to partial or complete walking. For many other such individuals the. training or exercise value of moving the individual s limbs through a walking motion may be extremely beneficial.

Some handicapped individuals are unable to walk because of a serious deterioration or lack of development of the muscles due to inactivity. This is particularly true of young children, for example, who have been handicapped since birth or from a very early age and as a result have never been able to walk. In such individuals the muscles in the legs and in other parts of the body used in walking have never had a chance to develop along with the individual and his growth and may become so seriously impaired due to inactivity as to become irrepairably weakened without the benefit of surgery. With other individuals muscles which were once partially or fully developed by partial or complete walking may become sufficiently weakened or may otherwise deteriorate to the point where the individual may not be able to walk, even where motor coordination and other necessary factors for walking are present. For individuals who have lost the use of muscles used in walking or who have never had the use of such muscles, a device or machine capable of moving the various limbsof such individuals through awalking motion would be of substantial benefit. ,By moving the limbs of such individuals in walking fashion serious muscle deterioration is prevented. Moreover in many I such individuals the muscles are forced to develop to a point where partial or complete walking may be engaged in.

Many individuals are unable to walk due to a lack of motor coordination. In such individuals solution of the problem may be a matter of impressing upon the brain what proper motor coordination is like so that the brain can thereafter command the various parts of the body in appropriate fashion.

The big difficulty with prior art devices of the type disclosed in the above-referred-to patents is their inability to effect a complete reciprocating action of the type undergone in walking in which the heels undergo relative motion with respect to the remainder of the feet in the region of the arches to cause bending of the ankles and knees and a consequent reciprocating action of the hips and pelvic region accompanied by a swinging of the arms. In order to achieve complete exercise of the muscles and motor coordination used in walking it is very important that a complete and not a partial walking motion be undergone. The prior art devices referred to above effect some forward and backward movement of the feet in reciprocating fashion. In addition some such devices impart some relative vertical motion or rocking between the heel and the remain der of the foot. However such devices do not move the feet through cyclic paths closely approximating those of walking, do not effect relative heel motion of the type experienced in actual walking, do not insure that the knees and ankles bend in the normal walking fashion, and otherwise do not force leg movement of the type which results in hip and pelvic movement and arm swing of the type experienced in walking. Despite the limitations on the motion imparted by prior art devices, many such devices tend to be extremely complex and involve many moving parts which are subject to wear and other deterioration. Some of the prior art devices are very large and cumbersome and consume an inordinate amount of space so as to limit their usefulness for certain training applications.

One desirable feature notpresent in walkers of the prior art is the ability of the individual to be able to drive the walker about as a means of transportation as well as exercise and therapy. Thus it would be desirable to provide a walker which in addition to exercising and training the patient in walking enables the patient to drive the walker about at controlled speeds and in different selected directions over the floor, sidewalk or other surface at which the walker is located.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION The present invention provides a walker which causes an individual placed therein to undergo a complete reciprocating walking action. The individual is supported above the hips and preferably within the region of the waist by a frame including a four legged portion thereof in the form of a glider which rests upon the floor. The feet of the individual are supported by a pair of foot support members or footboards which undergo a reciprocating movement with respect to one another along cyclic paths of motion. Each of the footboards includes a rigid, generally planar forward portion thereof disposed under the ball of the foot and supported by pivotably mounted lever arms in the region of the toe of the foot. The forward portion of the footboard is pivotably hinged to a separate, rigid, relatively planar rearward portion of the footboard in the region of the arch of the footso that the rearward portion which resides under the heel of the foot is capable of undergoing independent motion relative to the forward portion of the footboard. The rearward portion of the footboard is coupled to an arrangement for imparting the desired cyclic motion to the footboard such as to an endless chain which encircles and extends between a pair of sprockets mounted for rotation about generally parallel, spaced apart axes. With one of the sprockets rotatably driven the chain moves through the cyclic path carrying the footboard with it.

As the footboards of the walker move through the paths of cyclic motion the feet of the individual are driven in a fashion similar to walking in which each foot is lifted, then moved forward, then dropped and then moved rearward relative to the torso of the individual. The footboards which move through virtually identical paths of cyclic or reciprocating motion are out-ofphase with each other so as to always be at opposite positions within their respective paths. As the footboards pivot relative to the forward portions so as to stretch the arch and raise the heel relative to the ball of each foot as the foot is lifted and started forward. As the foot continues to move forward relative to the torso of the individual the rearward portion of the footboard is lowered relative to the forward portion allowing the arch to contract and the heel to drop. This action causes the ankle to bend and thereby the knee in normal fashion as each leg takes a step. A bracket rigidly affixed at the rear of the rearward portion of each footboard has the upper extremity thereof coupled to the knee of the individual to insure that the knee bends and straightens at the proper places within the walking cycle.

By providing footboards which pivot under the foot along with cycling in reciprocating fashion the feet including the heels and the ankles and knees undergo the identical motion experienced during actual walking. Moreover by supporting the individual above the hips and causing the feet and legs to undergo such motion the upper portions of the legs including the hips and the pelvis undergo the same motion as in actual walking. Movement of the feet and legs in such fashion while securing the individual in the region of the waist further serves to forcethe arms through a swinging motion typically experienced in walking. In this fashion the complete reciprocating walking action or motion is duplicated by walkers in accordance with the invention.

The sprockets and chains'used to drive the footboards in a preferred embodiment of a walker in accordance with the invention are mounted on a lower portion of the frame and are driven by a common motor and gear reduction unit through an arrangement of shafts, sprockets and chains. The motor itself may be powered by a battery or other appropriate source and may be made variable in speed so as to vary the speed of the walking motion. Where desired the walker may be equipped so that the individual can drive it over a surface at a controlled speed and in variable directions so as to function as a means of transportation as well as for training and exercise. Where so equipped the walker is supported by a pair of tracks in the form of endless bolts wound around opposite pairs of cylindrical elements rotatably mounted on the frame of the walker. Slippage of the belts relative to the cylindrical elements or wheels is prevented'by a plurality of lugs on the inside surface of the belt which engage with lugs mounted on the outside surfaces of the wheels. The tracks are independently driven by a pair of motors individually associated therewith. One wheel of each track arrangement is driven by the associated motor through an arrangement including a gear reduction mechanism, a shaft, a chain and a pair of sprockets. The speed of travel of the walker is varied by varying the speed of the motors. The direction of travel of the walker is varied by energizing one motor to the exclusion of the other or to a greater extent than the other motor.

Energization of the motors to effect speed and direction control is accomplished by an arrangement which includes a control handle mounted for movement in various different directions. A rheostat operated by a thumb actuated mechanism in the grip of the control handle varies the speed of operation of the motors. As the control handle is moved into a position corresponding to a desired direction of travel for the walker, one or more of a plurality of microswitches mounted adjacent the base of the control handle are actuated by mating contacts secured to the control handle so as to energize the motors in selected directions to effect travel of the walker in the desired direction. When the direction of the walker is to be changed the control handle is moved to a new position corresponding to a new direction of travel, whereupon an appropriate one or more of the microswitches are actuated so as to energize the motors in appropriate fashion.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of preferred embodiments of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a reciprocating walker in accordance with the invention showing the manner in which an individual is placed within the walker when in use;

FIG. 2 is a difierent perspective view'of' a portion of the walker of FIG. 1; I

FIGS. 3A-3D comprise four schematic representations of the manner in which the footboards of the walker of FIG. 1 move to effect a complete reciprocating walking motion in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a portion of the lower frame of a walker in accordance with FIG. 1 which is equipped so as to be drivable over a surface;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a control handle and associated apparatus for use in the arrangement of FIG.

FIG. 6A is a perspective view of a portion of a walker having an alternative arrangement in accordance with the invention; and

FIG. 6B is a side view of a portion of the arrangement of FIG. 6A.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION A preferred embodiment of a walker 10 in accordance with the invention is shown in FIG. 1 as comprising a frame 12 which includes a glider 14 and a lower frame 16. The glider '14 assumes the configuration of certain conventional walking gliders including a pair of front legs 18 and 20 having lower and upper members 22 and 24 respectively extending therebetween and a pair of rear legs 26 and 28 respectively disposed behind the front legs 18 and 20. Lower and upper side rails 30 and 32 respectively extend between and couple the legs 18 and 26 together. Similarly lower and upper side rails 34 and 36 respectively extend between and couple the legs 20 and 28.

The upper side rails 32 and 36 are respectively equipped with short lengths of substantially vertically disposed railings 38 and 40. The facing surfaces of the railings 38 and 40 have hooks for securing the chains of a leather harness assembly 42 which is secured above the hips and preferably in the region of the waist of an individual using the walker 10. A pair of short frame elements 44 and 46 extend downwardly from the lower side rail 30 adjacent the front and rear legs 18 and 26 respectively to receive and support a pair of angled frame members 48 and 50 respectively, comprising a portion of the lower frame 16. Similarly a pair of elements 52 and 54 extend downwardly from the lower side rail 34 in the region of the front and rear legs 20 and 28 respectively so as to receive and support angled frame members 56 and 58 respectively, comprising part of the lower frame 16. The angled frame members 48 and 50 are secured to the forward and rearward portions of and support a side rail 60 as best shown in FIG. 2. Similarly the angled frame members 56 and 58 are secured to the forward and rearward portions of and support a side rail 62. The side rails 60 and 62 which are disposed in generally parallel relation to one another as well as with respect tothe side rails 30, 32, 34 and 36 are joined by a plurality of transverse frame members including a member 64 as shown in FIG. 2.

In the arrangement of FIG. 1 the frame elements 44, 46, 52 and 54 are adjustably secured within the angled frame members 48, 50, 56 and 58 respectively so as to suspend the lower frame 16 at a selected height above the floor or other surface upon which the legs 18, 20, 26 and 28 rest. However in the arrangement of FIGS. 4 and 5 described hereafter in which the walker is equipped so as to be drivable over its supporting surface the lower frame 16 is equipped with the driving means which engages the surface. In such arrangement the angled frame members 48, 50, 56 and 58 serve to support the glider l4 and to hold the legs 18, 20, 26 and 28 above the surface.

As best seen in FIG. 2 the walker includes a pair of footboards comprising a right footboard 66 and a left footboard 68, both of which are driven using a single power source in the form of a motor 70. The motor 70 which is mounted to the forward portion of the lower frame 16 is coupled via a belt 72 to drive a gear reduction unit 74 which is also mounted on the forward portion of the lower frame 16 and which hasa sprocket 76 at its output. A chain 78 couples the sprocket ,76 to a sprocket 80 on a shaft 82 which is rotatably mounted on the side rails 60 and 62. In this fashion the shaft 82 is rotated at a reduced speed in response to operation of the motor 70.

The motor 70 is powered by an appropriate power source such as a battery 84 mounted on the forward portion of the lower frame 16 as shown in FIG. 2. During use of the walker 10 the motor 70, the belt 72, the gear reduction unit 74, the chain 78 and the battery 84 are covered, for reasons of safety and appearance, by a cover 86 of generally rectangular configuration as seen in FIG. 1. The cover 86 may include a rheostat 88 or other appropriate device for controlling the speed of the motor where desired.

As the shaft 82 is rotatably driven in response to operation of the motor 70 a first pair of sprockets 90 and 92 mounted on the shaft 82 on the inside of and adjacent the side rails and 62 respectively rotate so as to drive a pair of associated chains 94 and 96 respectively. The chains 94 and 96 rotate respective ones of a second pair of sprockets 98 and 100 rotatably mounted on the insides of the side rails 60 and 62 respectively. The sprockets 98 and 100 are coupled to rotate respective ones of a third pair of sprockets 102 and 104. A fourth pair of sprockets 106 and 108 are rotatably mounted on the inside of the side rails 60 and 62 respectively to the rear of the sprockets 102 and 104 along the lower frame 16. The sprockets 102 and 104 are mounted for rotation about a first common axis which is generally parallel to a second common axis about which the sprockets 106 and 108 are mounted for rotation. A chain 110 is mounted so as to encircle and extend between the sprockets 102 and 106 and define a path of reciprocal, cyclic motion for the right footboard 66. Similarly a chain 112 is mounted so as to encircle and extend between the sprockets 104 and 108 to define a path of reciprocal, cyclic motion for the left footboard 68.

Accordingly as the motor is operated so as to drive the shaft 82 and included sprockets and 92, the chains 94 and 96 rotatably drive the sprockets 98 and 100. Driving of the sprockets 98 and results in rotatable driving of the sprockets 102 and 104 so as to drive the chains and 112, about the sprockets 102, 106, 104 and 108.

The right footboard 66 includes a relatively rigid, generally planar forward portion 114 thereof pivotably hinged along a joint 116 to a relatively rigid, generally planar rearward portion 118 thereof. In like fashion the left footboard 68 includes a rigid, planar forward portion 120 thereof hinged at a joint 122 to a rearward portion 124 thereof. As described in detail hereafter the forward portions 1 14 and 120 are adapted to be disposed under and to support the balls of the feet of the individual. The rearward portions 118 and 124 are disposed under and support the heels of the individuals feet. The hinging joints 116 and 122 which extend transversely across the bottom of the feet in the region of the arches pennit independent hinging movement of the rearward portions 118 and 124 with respect to the forward portions 114 and 120 to effect a desired heel and leg motion. The end of the forward portion 114 of the right footboard 66 opposite the joint 116 is supported for movement by a pair of lever arms 126 and 128. In similar fashion the forward portion 120 of the left footboard 68 is supported by a pair of lever arms 130 and 132. Each of the lever arms 126, 128, 130 and 132 has its lower end pivotably coupled to one of the forward portions 114 and 120 and its upper end pivotably suspended from a crossbar member 134 of the lower frame 16. The opposite ends of the crossbar member 134 are supported by opposite vertical frame members 136 and 138 respectively mounted on the side rails 60 and 62. The rear corners of the rearward portions 118 and 124 are respectively coupled to the chains 110 and 112 for movement therewith.

The forward portions 114 and 120 are equipped with rigid straps 140 and 142 respectively for respectively receiving and securing the balls of the right and left feet. The rearward portions 118 and 124 respectively include straps 144 and 146 for respectively securing the right and left heels thereto. Brackets 148 and 150 are respectively rigidly mounted to the rearward portions 118 and 124 opposite the joints 116 and 122 for pivoting movement with the rearward portions. The top of the bracket 148 is equipped with a strap 152 for encircling the right knee of the user. In similar fashion the bracket 150 is equipped with a strap 154 at the top end thereof for encircling the left knee of the user.

The lever arms 126, 128, 130 and 132 allow the forward ends of the footboards 66 and 68 to swing through arcs of motions as the footboards are driven by the chains 110 and 112. As the chain 110 rotates the right footboard 66 is caused to undergo a cyclic motion closely approximating that of actual walking with the rearward portion 118 pivoting relative to the forward portion 114 to effect the up-down heel motion experienced in walking. The left footboard 68 operates in similar fashion but is out of phase with the right footboard 66 in terms of its position within the path of cyclic movement defined by the associated chain. Pivot- 7 ing or hinging movement of the rearward portions 118 and 124 relative to the forward portions 114 and 120 bends the ankles and tends to cause the knees to alternately straighten and bend at different portions of the cyclic motion. The brackets 148 and 150 with their included straps 152 and 154 pivot with the rearward portions 118 and 124 to insure that the knees bend and straighten at the proper times.

The operation of the footboards 66 and 68 may be better understood by referring to the illustrations of FIGS. 3A-3D which depict four different positions of the right footboard 66 within its cycle of reciprocal motion. In the example of FIG. 3A the footboard 66 has moved along the lower portion of the cycle of motion to a point where the coupling of the rearward portion 118 to the chain 1 is about to rotate up and over the sprocket 106. This represents the position in walking in which the right leg is behind the left leg, the right foot being flat on the ground and the left foot which has just taken a step being about to strike the ground, heel first. The position of the right foot within the straps 140 and 144 holds the portions 114 and 118 so that there is little or no flex at the joint 116. The bracket 148 is positioned to insure that the knee of the right or trailing leg in this position is straightened. The lever arm 126 is pulled to the rear of the crossbar member 134.

In the position of FIG. 3B the point of connection of the rearward portion 118 to the chain 110 has moved to the top of the sprocket 106, thereby raising the footboard 66 so as-to begin a step by the right foot. At the same time the rearward portion 118 pivots upwardly at the joint 116 with respect to the forward portion 114 so as to lift the heel and throw the ankle and lower portion of the right leg forward. At the same time the bracket 148 angles forward to insure a gradually increasing bending of the right knee. The lever arm 126 is still behind the crossbar member 134.

As the right foot continues to move forward from the position shown in FIG. 3B to continue the step being made by the right foot, the heel drops relative to the ball of the right foot and the knee straightens slightly. In FIG. 3C the right footboard 66 has moved through a substantial portion of the upper part of the cycle of motion, This corresponds to the position in walking where the right foot has been advanced forward of the left foot and is about to be set upon the ground to complete the step. At this point the heel of the right foot lowers with respect to the ball of the right foot so that the rearward portion 118 forms a very small angle with respect to the forward portion 114. At the same time the bracket 148 has moved back to insure that some straightening of the right knee has been effected. With the right footboard 66 in such a forward portion of the cycle of motion, the lever arm 126 has pivoted under the crossbar member 134 and is forward of the member 134.

As the right footboard 66 continues to move forward, the right heel continues to drop with respect to the ball of the right foot and the right knee continues to straighten. As the point of connection of the rearward portion 118 to the chain 1 10 reaches the sprocket 102 and begins to encircle the sprocket 102 the footboard 66 begins to drop downwardly, heel first, as shown in FIG. 3D. This corresponds to the dropping of the right foot onto the ground to complete the steo by the right foot. The rearward portion 118 is virtually coplanar with respect to the forward portion 114. However since the lever arm 126 has swung to an extreme forward position the toe of the foot is raised somewhat, and as the rearward portion 118 is lowered over the sprocket 102 the heel is dropped in a'lower position than the ball of the foot. The bracket 148 is angled toward the rear insuring that the right knee is nearly straight as the step is completed. I

As the point of connection between the rearward portion 118 and the chain drops to the lower portion of the cycle of motion and advances rearwardly to the position shown in FIG. 3A, the rearward portion 118 continues to be generally coplanar with the forward portion 114. At the same time the lever arm 126 swings under the crossbar member 134 so as to lower the toe slightly and maintain the footboard 66 and thereby the right foot in a generally horizontal position as the footboard 66 moves rearwardly. This corresponds to the portion of the walking cycle in which the right foot which has just taken a step is placed flat on the ground and is maintained there while the left foot takes a step. As the left foot takes a step so as to advance past the right foot, the right knee continues to remain virtually straight and the entire right leg is pivoted at the hip so as to swing rearwardly relative to the torso. This action is insured by the bracket 148 which maintains the right knee straight while allowing the right leg to move rearward along the lower portion of the cycle of motion.

The left footboard 68 undergoes the same motion as the right footboard 66, but is always in an opposite por tion of its cycle of motion with respect to the right footboard 66. This reciprocating action duplicates the action of the feet and legs during actual walking. Moreover, since the individual is secured above the hips and in the region of the waist by the harness assembly 42 the hips and pelvic region are free to move in a fashion identical to that engaged in during normal walking. Such movement has the further effect of tending to cause the arms to swing naturally at the individuals side, althoughin certain instances it may be desirable to extend the lever arms 126, 128, 130 and 132 upwardly beyond the crossbar member 134 and couple them to the hands of the individual. This insures proper hand movement in walking wherein each hand swings forward as the leg on that side of the body moves backward and swings rearward as the leg moves forward to aid in balance.

In this fashion walkers in accordance with the invention provide a complete reciprocating walking action in which the feet, ankles, knees, hips and arms all move in conventional walking fashion. The benefits achieved from such a complete action are substantial. From an exercise or therapy standpoint such a complete walking motion or action puts into use all of the muscles and joints used in normal walking, thereby strengthening the muscles in preparation for walking or at the minimum maintaining such muscles from deterioration. From a training standpoint it has been found that the complete walking motion undergone by walkers in accordance with the invention provide greatly improved results in terms of teaching handicapped individuals to walk. This is attributed to the complete walking motion which is thought to be impressed upon the brain and bodily motor control system in such a way that actual walking is much more readily learned.

While many factors contribute to the success of the complete walking motion successfully taught by walkers in accordance with the invention, it is thought that a key aspect of such process is the use of hinged footboards to achieve some arch movement resulting in vertical heel movement relative to the ball of the foot. When such heel motion is achieved in conjunction with the paths of cyclic motion for the footboards, a very important aspect of walking is impressed upon the person. This simple heel movement causes the ankle to bend and results in proper bending and straightening of the knee. However proper knee action is insured by a further feature in the form of the brackets which are attached to the rearward portions of the footboards and which are secured about the knees. A still further aspect of the invention which plays an important role in achieving a complete walking motion is the securing of the individual above the hips and in the region of the waist. Thus the harness assembly 42 functions to secure the individual in an upright position and insure that the individual does not fall over. Of equal importance, however, is the function performed by the harness assembly 42 in allowing the hips and pelvic region of the individual to undergo those motions experienced in actual walking inresponse to the driving of the feet and legs by the footboards 66 and 68.

In many instances it may be desirable to be able to use the walker as a means of transportation as well as for exercise and therapy for a handicapped or otherwise non-ambulatory person. An arrangement for accomplishing this is illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5. FIG. 4 shows the lower frame 16 as in the case of FIG. 2, but with the walking mechanism removed for simplicity of illustration. As shown inFlG. 4 the lower frame 16 has a pair of opposite tracks 160 and 162 mounted thereon. The track 160 includes a pair of circular members in the form of cylinders 164 and 166 rotatably mounted on the lower frame 16. The cylinder 164 is mounted on an axle 168 which is in turn rotatably received within a spaced-apart pair of pillow blocks 170 and 172 mounted on the lower frame 16. A sprocket 174 mounted on the shaft 168 between the pillow blocks 170 and 172 engages a chain 176 which is also coupled to a gear reduction unit 178. The gear reduction unit 178 is driven by a motor 180 so as to turn the chain 176 and the sprocket 174 and rotate the cylinder 164 via the shaft 168. The cylinder 166 is mounted on a shaft 182 which is rotatably received within a spaced-apart pair of pillow blocks 184 and 186 mounted on the lower frame 16. Driving of the cylinder 164 in response to operation of the motor 180 causes an endless belt 188 which extends around and between the cylinders 164 and 166 to move around the cylinders. The outer surfaces of the cylinders 164 and 166 are equipped with series of spaced-apart lugs 190 and 192 respectively. The lugs 190 and 192 engage a series of lugs 194 on the inner surface of the endless belt 188 to insure slip free operation.

The track 162 includes an endless belt 196 having a series of lugs 198 on the inner surface thereof for engagement with series of lugs 200 and 202 respectively mounted in spaced apart relation on the outer surfaces of a pair of rotatable cylinders 204 and 206. The cylinder 204 is coupled to a shaft 208 rotatably received within a spaced-apart pair of pillow blocks 210 and 212 mounted on the lower frame 16. A sprocket 214 mounted on the shaft 208 engages a chain 216 so as to be driven by a motor 218 via a gear reduction unit 220. The cylinder 206 is mounted on a shaft 222 which in turn is rotatably received within a spaced-apart pair of pillow blocks 224 and 226 mounted on the lower frame 16. As in the case of the right hand track 160 the left hand track 162 is driven in response to the motor 218 via the gear reduction unit 220, the chain 216, the sprocket 214, the shaft 208 and the cylinder 204.

It will be seen that the tracks 160 and 162 are independently driven by the separate motors 180 and 218. Accordingly the speed and direction of drive of the walker may be varied by varying the speed of one or both motors or the relative speed therebetween. This is accomplished by a control unit 228 having a hand operate'd stick 230 mounted therein. Details of the control unit 228 and included stick 230 are shown in FIG. 5. The stick 230 includes a hand grip 232 at the upper end thereof. Mounted within the hand grip 232 is a rheostat (not shown) which is adjusted by a thumb operated plunger 234 protruding from the upper end of the grip 232. The lower end of the stick 230 includes a mechanism 236 for mounting the stick to permit movement of the stick about the mechanism 236 in various different directions. A contact board 238 is mounted on the stick 230 above the mechanism 236 and includes a plurality of contacts 240 disposed above mating ones of a plurality of microswitches 242 mounted on a base member 244. As the stick 230 is moved by hand relative to the base member 244 the control board 238 is moved so that one or more of the contacts 240 touch and close the mating microswitches 242. The particular microswitch or switches closed by the contacts 240 depends on the angular position of the stick 230 and determines the direction of travel of the walker. Thus when a microswitch 246 is closed the walker is driven straight ahead by energizing the motors 180 and 218 in equal amounts. Closure of either of a pair of microswitches 248 and 250 causes the walker to move to the right or to the left respectively by greater energization of the motor 180 or the motor 218. Closure of one of three different microswitches 252, 254 or 256 produces the same results but in an opposite direction. The rheostat in the grip 232 of the stick 230 is coupled in circuit with the motors 180 and 218 to control the speed thereof and thereby the speed of movement of the walker. I

Although not shown in FIG. 4 the lower frame 16 includes all of the walking apparatus and the glider 14 of FIGS. 1 and 2 as well as the apparatus for driving the walker. The tracks and 162 which are mounted on and supported by the lower frame 16 reside inside the confines of the glider 14 so as not to make the walker unduly large or cumbersome. The motors and 218 and their associated gear reduction units 178 and 220 reside within the cover 86 shown in FIG. 1. The control unit 228 is mounted in a convenient location on top of the glider 14 where it is readily accessible to an individual using the walker 10.

A walker equipped in the manner of FIGS. 4 and 5 enables an individual using it to exercise or receive therapy in the manner described in connection with FIGS. 1-3. Without the necessity for being removed from the walker, such individual can use the walker to move about from one place to another. Use of the footboards 66 and 68 can be continued or terminated as desired as the walker is driven about by the individual. The lugged tracks 160 and 162 provide an effective and positive way in which to drive the walker. The tracks enable the walker to be driven over varying terrain in- .the walker is placed to 1 1 eluding slopes and certain bumps including curbs and flights of steps.

Of course, still other uses can be made of the basic walker shown in F IG. 1, in accordance with the invention For example a walker essentially in the form of that shown in FIG. 1 but made waterproof and shockproof can be immersed in water to provide for walking or exercising within the confines of a therapeutic bath. Moreover, the walker can be equipped with elaborate speed controls and safety devices, as well as bells, horns or other attention-getting devices where small children are involved, and can include sensor-operated automatic shut-off devices and the like in the motorized version of FIGS. 4 and 5. The arrangement for driving the footboards 66 and 68 can be modified within the scope of the invention so long as the complete reciprocating walking motion is maintained. Thus the dual chains 110 and 112 can be replaced by a single chain mounted on a pair of sprockets between the footboards 66 and 68 with the footboards being coupled to opposite portions of the single chain. In such an arrangement a single chain replaces the chains 94 and 96, and the outside edges of the footboards 66 and 68 can be coupled to guides mounted on the respective side rails 60 and 62 and shaped to guide the footboards 66 and 68 through their cyclic paths of motion.

An alternative arrangement of a walker in accordance with the invention is shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B. The arrangement of FIGS. 6A and 6B is the same as that of FIGS. 1-3 except for the footboards 66 and 68 and the specific means of supporting them. In the arrangement of FIGS. 1-3 the footboards 66 and 68 are supported entirely by the couplings to the chains 110 and 112 and by the lever arms 126, 128, 130 and 132. In some instances positioning of the users feet within the straps 140, 142, 144 and 146 is sufficient to prevent unwanted downward flexing of the footboards 66 and 68 at the respective joints 1 16 and 122. In still other situations the bottoms of the footboards 66 and 68 may actually slide upon a floor or other surface on which provide necessary support for thefootboards.

In the alternative arrangement of FIGS. 6A and 6B the footboards 66 and 68. are respectively supported by longitudinally running rails 270 and 272 which form a part of the lower frame 16 and which extend in directions generally parallel to the side rails 60 and 62. The rails 270 and 272 are mounted at their forward ends to the member 64 and at their trailing ends to a transverse frame member 274 extending across the lower frame 16 and forming the angled frame members 50and 58 at the opposite ends thereof. A separate, generally U- shaped element is mounted on the underside of each of the forward portions 114 and 120 so as to partially encompass and slide along the rails 270 and 272. Such a U-shaped element 276 associated with the right footboard 66 is shown in FIG. 68 as it is positioned for sliding movement along the rail 270.

In operation each of the U-shaped elements slides along the top of the associated rail 270 and 272 to insure travel of the trailing edges of the forward portions 114 and 120 in bidirectional fashion along generally horizontal paths of motion. The footboards may still pivot at the joints 116 and 122, allowing the forward edges of the forward portions 1 14 and 120 to be slightly raised and lowered as they swing through the arcs defined by the levers 126, 128, 130, and 132. At the same 12- time the rearward portions1l8 and 124 of the footboards 66 and 68 are free to experience up and down movement while pivoting at the joints 116 and 122 in response to movement of the chains and 112.

With the footboards 66 and 68 partially supported by the rails 270 and 272, the straps and 142 in the arrangement of FIGS. 1-3 may-be replaced by pairs of generally L-shaped brackets 278, 280 and 282, 284 respectively mounted on the forward portions 114 and 120. The pairs of brackets 278, 280 and 282, 284 are adjustably mounted in spaced apart relation from one another to accommodate the balls of the users feet and prevent lateral movement of the feet. As in the arrangement of FIGS. l-3 the straps 144 and 146 are placed so as to surround the users ankles. In addition a pair of heel cups 286 and 288 are respectively mounted on the rearward portions 118 and 124 so as to secure and properly position the heels of the user throughout the paths of motion of the footboards 66 and 68.

The brackets 148 and 150 in the arrangement of FIGS. 6A and 6B differ somewhat fromthe arrangement of FIGS. 1-3 in that each comprises a generally L-shaped rod, one end of which is received within and tightened in a hole in the rearward portion of the respective footboard. Tightening of the rods comprising the brackets 148 and 150 is accomplished by hand adjustable bolts 290 and 292.-By loosening the bolts 290 and 292, the rods 148 and 150 may be pivoted so as to permit easier access to the footboards 66 and 68 when the user is entering or exiting the walker 10. Thereafter the rods 148 and 150 are pivoted back into place and the bolts 290 and 292 are tightened. Each of the straps 152 and 154 in this instance comprises opposite lengths of strap likematerial which are joined together after being wrapped around the knee to form a loop.

For purposes of safety as well as appearance the opposite chains 94,96, 110 and 112 are partially covered by a pair of chain guards 294 and 296 respectively mounted on the side rails 60 and 62. The chain guards 294 and 296 are also preferably used in the arrangements of FIGS. 1-3 but have been omitted therefrom to facilitate illustration and explanation of the chain and sprocket drives. 2

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the foregoing and other changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

What is claimed is:

1. A device for moving the foot of a person through at least part of a walking motion, said device comprising a footboard for receiving the foot of a person, said footboard having at least two generally planar portions thereof joined together at their ends so as to be pivotable with respect to each other, and means coupled to drive the footboard through a cyclic motion in which the at least two portions of the footboard undergo relative pivoting movement.

2. The device set forth in claim 1, wherein the at least two portions of the footboard are respectively positioned against the ball and the heel of the foot of the person.

3. The device set forth in claim 1, further including means coupled to one of the at least two portions of the footboard for varying the bending of the knee of the person as the at least two portions of the footboard undergo relative pivoting movement.

4. A device for moving the foot of an individual through a cyclic motion comprising first and second generally planar, rigid elements pivotably coupled to one another, the first and second elements being adapted to receive the foot of an individual thereon and capable of relative pivoting motion in the region of the arch of the foot, and means coupled to the first and second elements for driving said elements through a cyclic motion in which the first and second elements are repetitively pivoted relative to one another to alternately lift and drop the heel of the foot of the individual relative to the ball of the foot as the first and second elements are driven through the cyclic motion, the means for driving the first and second elements including a pair of circular elements mounted for rotation about generally parallel axes, endless loop means extending around the pair of circular elements and movable between and around the pair of circular elements in response to rotation of the circular elements, means for rotatably driving one of the pair of circular elements, and means coupling one of said first and second elements to the endless loop means.

5. The device set forth in claim 4, further including at least one lever arm pivotably suspended from an upper end thereof and having a lower end pivotably coupled to the other one of said first and second elements.

6. A device for moving a person through a complete reciprocating walking action comprising means coupled to a fixed reference for securing theperson above the hips of the person to hold the person in a standing position, a first parir of driving means individually in contact with the balls of the feet of the person for moving the feet through separate paths of cyclic motion in reciprocating fashion, and a second pair of driving means individually in contact with the heels of the feet of the person and movable relative to the first pair of driving means for cyclically raising and lowering the heels relative to the balls of the feet in accordance with the position of the feet within the paths of cyclic motion.

7. The device set forth inclaim 6, further comprising a a third pair of driving means individually in contact with the person in the region of the knees of the person for cylically bending the knees of the person in accordance with the position of the feet within the paths of cyclic motion.

8. The device set forth in claim 6, wherein the means for securing the person above the hips includes a frame to which the first and second pairs of driving means are mounted, and further including means coupled to the frame for propelling the frame across a surface in a variable direction and at a controlled speed.

9. The device set forth in claim 8, wherein the means for propelling the frame includes first and second tracks mounted on the frame and independently drivable at selected speeds and in selected directions.

10. The device set forth in claim 6, wherein the moving of each foot of the person through a separate path of cyclic motion comprises an upward movement of the foot, followed by a forward movement of the foot, followed by a downward movement of the foot, followed by a rearward movement of the foot.

11. The device set forth in claim l0, wherein the cyclic raising and lowering of each heel relative to the ball of a foot of the person comprises a raising of the heel relative to the ball of the foot during said upward movement of the foot, followed by a lowering of the heel relative to the ball of the foot during said forward movement of the foot.

12. The device set forth in claim 11, further comprising a third pair of driving means individually in contact with the person in the region of the knees of the person, each of the third pair of driving means being operative to bend a knee of the person when the foot of the person connected to the knee undergoes said upward movement and a first portion of said forward movement and to straighten the knee during the remainder of the path of cyclic motion for the foot.

13. A device for moving a person through a walking motion comprising a pair of foot support members for V individually receiving the feet of a person, each of the foot support members comprising first and second rigid, generally planar elements joined for relative pivoting movement along an axis within the planes of the elements, the first element including means for securing the ball of the foot thereto and the second element including means for securing the heel of the foot thereto, and a pair of driving means, each coupled to the second element of a different one of the foot support members for moving a portion of the second element through an endless loop of motion, the second elements of the different foot support members pivoting relative to the first elements and at the same time moving the first elements in response to the pair of driving means.

14. The device of claim 13, further including means coupled to the first element of each of the foot support members for permitting reciprocating movement of a portion of the first element.

15. The device of claim 13, wherein each of the foot support members includes an elongated element rigidly mounted on a portion of the second element opposite the first element so as to be generally normal to the plane of the second element, and means coupled to an end of the elongated element opposite the second element for securing a knee of the person thereto.

16. The device of claim 13, further including a frame for mounting the pair of foot support members, and means coupled to the frame for supporting the upper part of the body of the person,

17. The device of claim 13, wherein the pair of driving means comprise first and second circular elements mounted in spaced apart relation for rotation about a first common axis, third and fourth circular elements mounted in spaced apart relation for rotation about a second common axis generally parallel to the first common axis, first endless loop means encircling and extending between the first and the third circular elements, and capable of movement in response to rotation of the first and the third elements to define one of the endless loops of motion, second endless loop means encircling and extending between the second and the fourth circular elements, and capable of movement in response to rotation of the second and the fourth elements to define the other one of the endless loops of motion, means coupling a portion of the second element of one of the foot support members to a portion of the length of the first endless loop means, and means coupling a portion of the second element of the other one of the foot support members to a portion of the length of the second endless loop means.

18. The device of claim 17, wherein the first element of each foot support member has at least one lever arm coupled to a portion thereof with an opposite portion of the lever arm being pivotably mounted to support the first element.

19. The device of claim 17, further including a frame having first and second generally parallel side rails, the first and the third circular elements being rotatably mounted on the first side rail and the second and the fourth circular elements being rotatably mounted on the second side rail, and means mounted on the frame and coupled to rotatably drive the first and the second circular elements.

20. A device for a non-ambulatory person comprising a frame, means for supporting a non-ambulatory person within the frame, means mounted on the frame and coupled to the person for moving the lower extremities of the person through a walking motion, said means for moving including a pair of foot plates mounted on the frame, the foot plates supporting the feet of the person and undergoing a reciprocating motion, and means coupled to the frame and including at least one motor of variable speed and steering means for enabling the non-ambulatory person to drive the frame over a surface at a variable speed and in a variable direction.

21. The device set forth in claim 20, wherein each of the pair of foot plates includes a first portion supporting the ball of the foot and a second portion movable independent of the first portion and supporting the heel 16 of the foot.

22. The device set forth in claim. 20, wherein the means for driving the frame over a surface includes a pair of rotatable means mounted on the frame in spaced apart relation, each of the rotatable means being independently driven in either of opposite directrons.

23. The device set forth in claim 22, wherein each of the rotatable means comprises a pair of generally cylindrical members mounted on the frame for rotation about generally parallel axes and having a plurality of teeth on the outside thereof, and an endless belt encircling and extending between the generally cylindrical members, the inside surface of the endless belt having teeth which mesh with the teeth on the outside of the cylindrical members.

24. The device set forth in claim 22, wherein the means for driving the frame includes a pair of motor means coupled to drive different ones of the rotatable means when energized, and control means including a hand actuated member which is movable in various directions to select a direction of drive for the device, the control means including a plurality of switching means, selected ones of which are activated in response to movement of the hand actuated member in a selected direction to energize the motor means in a manner which causes driving of the device in the selected direction.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification601/29, 482/51
International ClassificationA61H1/02
Cooperative ClassificationA61H2203/0406, A61H1/0259
European ClassificationA61H1/02L4L