To be published online
RU-Fit Medical Device
Rod Evans, Houston, TX
Toughing it out and playing through injury may once have been the go-to mindset for athletes for decades, but thanks to advances in medicine, we now know that such a belief can have serious consequences.
For Dr. William C. Paske, chief technology officer for Red Oak Instruments, preventing the macho ethos from causing long term damage to athletic bodies has become a passion. He was taken aback a few years ago watching youth football players stagger off the field to the cheers of the crowd following a big hit only to see them return to play in an obviously impaired state.
“Everyone would cheer as they stumbled off the field,” Paske recalls, “but when they returned to the game they would promptly fumble the ball or stumble around because they were still injured. The common adage for years was no blood, no injury, but that’s not true for brain injuries.”
Paske wanted to find a way to convince players, coaches, team doctors, parents and loved ones that if sending a player back into a game with a broken leg is not acceptable, then sending them back into competition with a concussion should be off limits as well.
This was the genesis of the journey that resulted in the development of the RU-Fit device. After extensive consultation with neurological specialists, Paske, who holds a PhD in molecular physics and a master’s in nuclear physics, set out to develop a portable device that could quickly and accurately measure changes in fine motor control in the hands, allowing physicians, coaches and the athletes themselves to see changes in coordination likely caused by a concussion.
“I wanted to be able to see the forces applied between the ulnar and median nerves of the hand. We could then see the coordination between them as measured by relative changes when the person squeezes his or her hand,” Paske said. “That is a change that can’t be faked.”
About the size of a TV remote control, the noninvasive RU-Fit device takes about 10 minutes to measure the force applied by the thumb, index and small finger simultaneously to determine how effectively the hands are working together.
Following a more than 10-year design and development process, Red Oak Instruments, founded in 2008 in Katy, Texas, produced a prototype device (called SR-3053) and partnered with associates in the medical field to begin testing. The effectiveness of the device was proven to be exceptional virtually from the start.
“We began by testing people with a variety of conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome and brain injuries to determine the rate of progression in their physical therapy treatments,” Paske said. “The device is really good at showing changes during the course of a therapy regimen. We had a patient who was actually regressing during therapy and his physical therapist could see that through the RU-Fit results, so he re-examined the patient and found an underlying cause that wasn’t detected before.”
Paske says a stroke patient who did not want to continue therapy because he didn’t believe it was working became convinced that he should continue the regimen based on the progress shown by the RU-Fit device and has since regained significant mobility.
A “Made in America” product, RU-Fit has earned approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is HIPAA compliant. Paske believes the device will be invaluable to professionals in a variety of fields in addition to athletic trainers, including chiropractors and physical therapists. Hospitals, clinics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), as well as pediatricians looking to evaluate childhood development skills, and even military commanders monitoring their soldiers’ rehabilitation programs, could all benefit from the immediate accuracy of RU-Fit.