COLLEGE STATION, Texas — At Texas A&M, students are bridging the gap between EMS professionals and exoskeleton manufacturers to develop devices that could reduce lower back strain and injuries while on the job.
“Bring this technology to the EMTs then it would solve a lot of those low back pain problems,” said Oshin Tyagi, PhD Candidate, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University. “It would help with long term, longevity and EMTs would be able to work longer.”
Tyagi is working with other students to discover how exoskeletons can better serve EMS professionals in the field.
“The goal was to understand how we could bring technology into emergency response and emergency response training,” said Tyagi.
“It helps in sometimes offloading the load from one muscle group to another muscle group, and sometimes it just helps in supporting a very specific type of muscle movement,” said Tyagi.
The team of Justin Reed, assistant chief EMS for Cy Fair Fire Department, is helping the students at Texas A&M gather data on range of motion and how the exoskeletons are needed to operate.
“It helps in making sure that you’re using correct body mechanics and then assist you in those movements to be able to give yourself some synergism in lifting the patient or doing a traditional manual task,” Reed said.
Reed says this device could help EMS workers have a lasting career.
“I mean the joke in EMS and fire service is you only lasts as long as your back does, and for most of the people, it doesn’t last very long, and I think it would be a game changer for the career field,” said Reed.
Tyagi and fellow classmates are working to see how exoskeletons can benefit EMTs when performing tasks such as CPS and lifting patients.
“Because they are designed for tasks that are so different than from what EMTs do,” said Tyagi. “There’s this gap between the product and the consumer.”
Tyagi is six months into her research and is taking the data she has collected over time to apply to exoskeletons.
One of the ways she’s doing that is by studying EMS workers muscle movement and range of motion to see where they need the most support.
“We actually volunteered a bunch of our staff to come in and essentially come in and do the circuits, do the evaluation of the product, using real world examples of what we do,” said Reed.
The goal is to find a way this device can provide optimal assistance when performing daily duties.
“They’re really excited to see where this goes and hopefully the fruits of their labor will actually show one day and be available to all paramedics and firefighters out there,” said Reed.
Tyagi says the next phase of the research project will include a longer study to determine if exoskeletons will overall reduce physical strains for EMTs.