February 2, 2004

Breaking Down Barriers



Prosthetics offers sledders options

Robert Roberts’ story isn’t your typical snowmobile tale. Then again, Roberts isn’t your typical snowmobiler.
You see, Roberts, an avid snowmobiler from Wyoming’s Star Valley, suffered a nasty snowmobile accident that left his right arm severely damaged. Surgery couldn’t repair the brachial plexus injury (which basically leaves the arm paralyzed) so Roberts recently underwent surgery to remove the injured arm.
Through all this, Roberts has continued to snowmobile, albeit with some difficulties. However, he is now hopeful that a new prosthetic arm will allow him more mobility on his sled.
A company specializing in prosthetic arms for active outdoors people, Advanced Prosthetic Technologies, is giving people like Roberts renewed hope that they can continue to enjoy the outdoors, including snowmobiling.
Here is Roberts’ story.
“I have been riding snowmobiles since I was six years old.?My dad had an Arctic Cat 399 Panther.?When I got strong enough to move that old sled around I upgraded to a bigger and better sled.?The sled I like the best and now ride is a Polaris 800 RMK.

The Accident
“I was in a horrible snowmobile accident in February 1998.?One man was killed and, along with other injuries, I sustained full root avulsions of the nerves that run my right arm.?I was right handed.?I have had two surgeries to try and gain some returned use of my arm to no avail. I gave the surgery more than five years to give me any return and since nothing came back I have chosen to have my arm amputated above the elbow.?It has taken me awhile to get to the point that I was totally comfortable with the idea but after talking with Ability Prosthetics and your husband (Will Craig) there was no doubt left in my mind that that was the way I wanted to go.
“Since Will has shown me the arm he has designed for the ‘sports fanatic,’ as I like to call us, I have been so excited.?Snowmobiling is my passion and stress reliever, especially since we have about 8-9 months of snow in Star Valley.?After meeting with Will I immediately went home and looked up his Internet site to take a good look at this arm.?To me it meant being able to enjoy my sport even more and hopefully be able to ride more like I used to.
“I still enjoy the steep and deep—the deeper the snow, the easier it is for me to maneuver my sled.
“I lived for winter and snowmobiling.?After my accident it took a good season for me to want to get back on.?I wasn’t sure if it was possible to ride one-armed and I wasn’t sure it would be enjoyable anymore because I wouldn’t be able to do the riding that I enjoyed.

Riding Again
“Darrin Brown, my good friend and local Polaris dealer, had taken in on trade a 700 RMK that had dual throttles. He told me to take it and see if I could ride.?I found that indeed I could ride again. Shortly after that my wife, Cinta, bought me a new 700 RMK.
“With the help of Darrin Brown at Robinson Motors in Afton, WY, and many friends, we came up with several ideas to maximize my riding abilities.?From all the ideas I chose the ones that worked the best for me and that is what I ride with today.?I have dual throttles. The one on the right is what I use to pull my handlebars towards me when turning right. My sled has footpegs on the back for steeper hills, as well as a tether strap, which, in case I fall off, kills my engine. Simmons skis are a must for control on the trail and I have hillclimber foot loops on the tunnel to help me balance while turning and sidehilling. Tri City handlebars made for hillclimbing give me more leverage and are narrower for a more comfortable fit.
“I still have difficulties like sidehilling if it’s very angled and highmarking is out of the question. I either have to go clear to the top or go until I get stuck because I can’t turn around without losing my balance and falling off or rolling my sled.
“There are people I run into all the time who ride with physical impairments or know people who do.?I think it’s great these people keep doing whatever sport they did before and I think it’s even greater if Will’s arm can help those who haven’t quit their sport be better at it or help those that have quit their sport to try and get back into something they enjoyed.”

Finding A Solution
The “Will” Roberts’ is referring to is Dr. William Craig, owner of Advanced Prosthetic Technologies (
www.prostheticarm.com). An avid mountaineer, skier and outdoorsman, Craig lost his arm in a car accident when he was 18. He was determined to get right back into things and within months was back at the university he attends. Soon after, his friends introduced him to mountain biking. Craig began biking with his standard prosthetic tied onto the handlebar with several feet of rope. After several nasty crashes, he decided that he had to come up with a different system. This began Will’s quest for a tough prosthetic arm that released from the bike and his dedication to getting amputees back to their active lives and to the sports that they loved. Craig loves to ski, mountain bike, rock climb, paraglide and snowboard.
The Arm is a result of more than 10 years of research and design by Craig and his friends at Toby’s Cycle Works (a local bike frame building shop) in Vancouver, BC. It has been tested on the toughest mountain biking trails that British Columbia has to offer. While it was initially designed for mountain biking, others, like Roberts, are showing interest in using The Arm for other applications, such as motocross, snowmobiling and ATVing.
Built to mimic the human arm and machined of titanium and alloy, the Arm offers cutting edge technology and high performance. The Arm has three unique features: a Fox Racing Shox custom tuned compression dampened elbow, an easy connect/disconnect system and adjustable angles. These features allow Craig the control and functional positioning to execute such skills as lifting the front wheel of his bike over logs, riding elevated 4-inch wide planks, lofting the bike, climbing hills and nailing heart stopping technical descents. Kevin Tissue, a mechanical engineer, helped design the latest Arm (about the 10th generation unit).
Now in his last year of residency at the University of Utah, Craig will graduate in June, 2004, in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. He is working on a pediatric version of the Arm, a tool hand and a heavy duty harness.
For more information, log on to the company’s website.







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