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Back On Their Feet

Back On Their FeetA unique team of hockey players is hitting the ice, thanks to a Tufts doctor's cutting edge work in special prosthetics. St. Petersburg, Russia.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.13.01] They may skate a little slower than their professional counterparts, but these hockey players don't mind. Fitted with specially designed prosthetic limbs, the players -- who hail from six different countries -- recently hit the ice to prove just how far science has come in helping amputees recover from the loss of a limb.

Called the Amputee Hockey World Team, the players took the ice against a team of Russian and World Champions, beating the able-bodied team 7-6 in front of an audience of diplomats, medical experts and hockey fans.

"This game is a powerful symbol of our advancing ability to help people heal from devastating injuries and resume activities they love," said John T. Harrington, M.D -- dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine. "We're proud to be part of the effort to collaborate with physicians around the world to improve the lives of patients."

But it wouldn't have been possible without the pioneering research of Tufts doctor Mark Pitkin, who created the revolutionary prosthetic foot that allows the players -- many of them landmine survivors -- to return to the ice.

"Invented by Pitkin at Tufts University, the rolling joint foot seeks to replicate the natural flexibility of the human foot and ankle bone, using tough, lightweight materials developed for the space program," reported the Columbus Dispatch.

The cutting-edge prosthesis is the result of a collaborative process between Russia and the U.S.

"Having worked in both countries, Pitkin say a way to link U.S. technology and finances with Russian experience and expertise, by founding the International Institute for the Prosthetic Rehabilitation of Land Mind Survivors," reported Russia's St. Petersburg Times. "The ambitious project set out to fund the transportation of mine victims to St. Petersburg, where they could receive surgery, therapeutic training and U.S.-made prosthetics."

Several years after the program was introduced, Pitkin and his hockey players are proving how valuable the venture has been.

"We hope to accomplish a great deal with this hockey game, showing the world that rehabilitation is truly possible and should be a global priority, giving players from many countries the chance to play hockey side-by-side on the same team, and linking landmine survivors to each other in the peace effort," explained Pitkin.

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