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New High-tech Prostheses Being Developed for Amputees

As the number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing limbs rises, researchers are working on developing better high-tech prostheses for amputees.

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  • JEFFREY KAYE, Reporter, KCET:

    On a clear, crisp fall morning in La Jolla, California, athletes gather to compete in a triathlon. As participants prepared for the race, it looked like an ordinary sporting event, except that many of these competitors weren't made just of flesh and bone.

    Sponsored by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, this annual competition is geared towards the physically disabled, many of them amputees. As the race began, the athletes faced a daunting course, starting with a 1.2-mile-long swim in the Pacific Ocean. Once back on dry land, they competed in a 56-mile-long cycling leg, followed by a 13-mile run.

    This triathlon not only demonstrated the strength and stamina of disabled athletes, it also showcased recent advances in prosthetic technology, developments that are benefiting the disabled around the world, including some of America's nearly 2 million amputees.


    I've been an amputee for over 20 years, so I have seen such a tremendous change in the technology, and truly the breakthroughs that I've experienced have helped me to live a fuller life.


    Sarah Reinertsen is something of a superstar in the amputee community. Born with a deformed leg that was amputated when she was 7 years old, she's crashed through barrier after barrier as a disabled athlete, from being the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic team, to becoming the first woman to finish the Ironman Triathlon World Championship on an artificial leg.

    During her athletic career, Reinertsen says, new prosthetic devices, such as a specially designed racing foot, had been essential to her success.