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Golfer turns to ETSU biomechanics lab for prosthetic foot

Jennifer Sprouse • Jan 24, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Riley Jessee loves to play golf.

And when he lost his right leg during a machinery accident on April 21, 2004, one would think that he would slow down a bit, if not give up the game and sports altogether.

But Jessee persevered and was teeing off at a local golf course on Aug. 15 of that same year with the help of prosthetics.

Working with Victory Orthotics and Prosthetics for six years, Jessee, 84, visited East Tennessee State University’s biomechanics lab Wednesday afternoon, where he tested out different prosthetic options to help him find the right fit to perfect his golf swing.

Dr. Kimi Sato, assistant professor in the exercise and sports science department at ETSU, and his team were one part of the prosthetic fitting Wednesday, as they monitored Jessee’s golf swing with videos and force platforms as he tried on the different prosthetic sockets.

“Basically, what we’re doing is to see which leg fits better for the patient and he’s bringing different types of legs and we are evaluating force production and also center pressure of the swing. If the center pressure distance goes all over the place that means he’s not stable, so we want to see the center pressure as minimal as possible to create his swing consistency,” Sato said. “Center pressure is not the pressure up and down, it’s actually the side to side.”

He said the prosthetics brought in by Victory varied from very rigid to very flexible.

“What we’re trying to capture, especially for the golf swing, the consistency is the key and we’re trying to see the consistency as well as how much force that he can produce and how he can minimize the center pressure,” Sato said. “It was funny that the ... very first one he tried he felt the best and from the visual inspection, as well as the evaluation from the force platform, we can tell that he’s more stable, but his swing speed is a little bit faster.”

Jessee stood on the force platform, with golf club in hand, took his teeing-off stance and then swung through, striking the practice golf balls that bounced at random throughout the lab.

As he was swinging, monitors, videos and the platform allowed Sato and his team to analyze and record the data with each prosthetic Jessee used.

“They are using force plate analysis to measure the golf swing and also measure the rotation in his lower extremities, as well as the upper extremities,” Calvin Hoyle, prosthetist from Victory, said.

Hoyle said improvements in prosthetics over the years give patients, like Jessee, “an active ankle, torsion and much more movement into the prosthetic foot itself.”

Hoyle said he and Jessee had been discussing Wednesday’s run through in the lab for three months and they were all excited to see the results.

“He’ll leave today in the trial setup that he has liked the most. He’s been giving us feedback as far as how much motion he has experienced with the foot, comfort and function and then compared to the analysis that he’s getting here at ETSU, he’s going to choose that foot for a trial for the next few weeks and then we’ll finish the product,” Hoyle said. “Anytime we can improve the quality of a person’s life that’s exciting. Plus, not only that, (but) this is going to give us a lot of feedback for future amputee golfers.”

Jessee said he also was having a good time and learned a little bit, too.

“One of the primary reasons was to find me a foot that I could use both in playing golf with and be able to use the same foot just generally in everyday life without ... changing from one socket to the other,” he said. “I believe we’re just about there.”

Admitting his journey, while not all bad, wasn’t the easiest at times, he said his determination was strong.

“You’ve got to set a goal and decide that, you know, you’re going to do (it) even if it’s the impossible, you’re going to make an attempt,” Jessee said. “It’s been a challenge to me to stand up and face reality on occasions ... rather than to just sit down and let it take charge of your life. Between the effort that these people have made that’s working with me, and my desire to overcome, and No. 1 by the grace of God, I’m here swinging a golf club, hopefully, well over a 100 miles an hour swing span.”

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