Background: Assistive technologies, such as arm prostheses, are intended to improve the quality of life of individuals with physical disabilities. However, certain training and learning is usually required from the user to make these technologies more effective. Moreover, some people can be encouraged to train more through competitive motivation.
Methods: In this study, we investigated if the training for and participation in a competitive event (Cybathlon 2020) could promote behavioral changes in an individual with upper limb amputation (the pilot). We defined behavioral changes as the active time while his prosthesis was actuated, ratio of opposing and simultaneous movements, and the pilot's ability to finely modulate his movement speeds. The investigation was based on extensive home-use data from the period before, during and after the Cybathlon 2020 competition.
Results: Relevant behavioral changes were found from both quantitative and qualitative analyses. The pilot's home use of his prosthesis nearly doubled in the period before the Cybathlon, and remained 66% higher than baseline after the competition. Moreover, he improved his speed modulation when controlling his prosthesis, and he learned and routinely operated new movements in the prosthesis (wrist rotation) at home. Additionally, as confirmed by semi-structured interviews, his self-perception of the prosthetic arm and its functionality also improved.
Conclusions: An event like the Cybathlon may indeed promote behavioral changes in how competitive individuals with amputation use their prostheses. Provided that the prosthesis is suitable in terms of form and function for both competition and at-home daily use, daily activities can become opportunities for training, which in turn can improve prosthesis function and create further opportunities for daily use. Moreover, these changes appeared to remain even well after the event, albeit relevant only for individuals who continue using the technology employed in the competition.
Keywords: Bionic arm; Cybathlon 2020; Home use; Neuromusculoskeletal prosthesis; Osseointegration; Prosthesis training; Prosthetic control.
© 2022. The Author(s).