Film-Making Technology Helps Kids Walk

Motion Capture Cameras Used To Analyze Gait

Luke Walters-Hooey, 11 years old, started life with the cards stacked against him.

"He was born with club feet on both feet. He was born without an ACL on his right knee. His right hip joint never formed," said Troy Hooey, Luke's father.

Add a condition that causes stiffness in his joints, and walking has not been easy. So last year, before undergoing surgery, he came to the Center for Gait Movement and Analysis at The Children's Hospital where a team of physicians used Hollywood technology to determine the best approach.

Similar to the way an athlete's movements are captured for a video game, Walters-Hooey wore reflective markers on his feet and legs while surrounded by 12 motion capture cameras.

"So those cameras are putting off enough light and then picking up where these markers are in space and this gives us our three dimensionality of Luke's motion," said Susan Kanai, a physical therapist.

The Gait Lab performs six types of step-by-step analysis that allowed doctors to correct two major issues in one multi-level surgery.

"We've improved this rotational alignment, so now the knee cap is pointed in the direction he's walking, and that's a really good thing for a knee joint," said Dr. James Carollo, the director of the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis.

From the cameras above, to the pressure sensitive plates in the floor, this technology provided peace of mind for Walters-Hooey's parents.

"I think without it they would have to guess at what they would need to do," said Hooey. "I know in his case, the data proved kind of the opposite of what just looking at him would have them do."

Motion capture has been used in the field of bio-mechanics for about 50 years, but the technology never advanced as rapidly as when Hollywood discovered its potential in animation.

"There's a lot of cool information and a lot of nice gadgets that we have to collect the data, but they are really just tools and they enable this team to make decisions that are going to help the overall child's well-being," said Carollo.

And Walters-Hooey is definitely seeing the benefits, living life the way an 11-year-old boy should.

"He's snowboarding and biking and swimming and can play soccer, so he's doing all the fun things that a little boy wants to do," said Hooey.

Besides children, the Gait Lab is also used to evaluate adults who have difficulty walking. Recently the services were expanded to offer 3-D motion capture for adolescent athletes to evaluate basic athletic motions to guide therapists, coaches and trainers to both rehabilitate the athlete and enhance their performance.

To learn more about the Center for Gait and Movement Analysis, visit thechildrenshospital.org.