Next week, eight disabled IDF veterans will receive new, top of the line artificial knees, enabling them, for the first time in years, to perform nearly any physical activity they please – including riding a bicycle, running and jogging.
The state-of-the-art knees are manufactured by Germany’s Otto Bock, and imported to Israel by Chemitec. “It’s not a prosthetic, but a bionic knee,” said Chemitec CEO Yossi Levin. “We are very proud to be bringing this technology to Israel, providing IDF soldiers injured in the line of duty with the opportunity to live normal lives once again.”
The Genium Bionic Prosthetic System, as it is formally known, is truly a wonder of the modern age, Levin told The Times of Israel. “The knee utilizes all the latest sensor, GPS, and Wi-Fi technology to provide automatic movement to individuals with injured knees. With the knee controlling all movement of the calves and feet, enabling individuals to once again use their knees allows them to engage in normal activities, like everyone else.” Because the process is automated – meaning that the knee responds to activity the individual wearing the knee is engaged in – the wearer does not have to think about his or her next step, providing a very different walking experience than individuals wearing regular prosthetics are used to, Levin added.
The knee and attached leg are loaded with sensors, gyroscopes, bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, and a GPS chip, said Ori Wiener, Chemitec’s technical manager. “The sensors measure activities and location 100 times a second, and automatically respond to events. An advanced algorithm powers an on-board computer, which automatically opens and closes hydraulic motors that move parts in the knee in response to movement. The response is automatic, so wearers do not have to think about what they are doing, as with regular prosthetics.” The knees have a six year warranty, and require service every two years, provided by Chemitec, Weiner said.
The Genium knees, which were developed by Otto Bock about a year ago, aren’t cheap; each costs around NIS 300,000 ($85,000). The funding for the knees themselves is coming from the Defense Ministry’s Department of Recovery Assistance for Disabled Soldiers, while Chemitec is donating the service and maintenance. “There are four places in the country with the technology to install these knees, and each will be helping out as well,” said Levin. “We will also be flying in experts from the manufacturer in Germany to supervise installation, which is scheduled for the beginning of next week.”
The soldiers are veterans of all of Israel’s recent wars, including the first and second Lebanon wars, as well as terror attacks, and were chosen by the Defense Ministry, under advisement of Professor Yisrael Dudkevich of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, an expert on orthopedics and orthopedic rehabilitation.
“This is top-of-the-line technology,” said Levin. If the first round of installation goes well, Levin said, he hopes to expand the program to other soldiers who could benefit.