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The Tailwind is an exercise device that has been shown in scientific studies to improve arm function and range of motion in people with partial paralysis. Developed by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical School, Tailwind can help patients regain lost arm function caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other brain injuries. Stroke survivors and others ‘ can recover the life they thought was lo st forever with Tailwind.

It works by helping the brain to move the arms after a stroke or other brain injury. It is a completely mechanical device. It does not need to be plugged in. The device can be used at home, and does not require specialized
training or the presence of a therapist. A caregiver or family member can set up the device, and the user can do the exercise unaided.

The exercise is easy to do. After the Tailwind is set up on any table or countertop, the user sits in front of the device, turns on a metronome to create an auditory cue, grasps the handles, and attempts to move them along a frictionless track to reach an end point. The combination of the repetitive exercise, the bilateral nature of the exercise, and the auditory cueing, helps to improve arm movement and range of motion. The recommended training is three times per week, 30 minutes per session, but users can work out more often if they wish.

Progress can be measured in a number of ways. The device enables users to measure the number of repetitions, the length of their arm movement, the height of the tracks, and the width of their shoulder movement. In addition, the training manual includes a number of functional measurements, so users can see how they are progressing with everyday tasks. A training log is included with the manual so users can track their training sessions.

The entire training sequence is also demonstrated on the included DVD. The DVD also includes a demonstration of unpacking the device from the shipping box, set up on a table top, and initial positioning. Instructions are also given for storage and cleaning of the Tailwind. The Tailwind also comes with a soft strap that can be used to strap a user’s hand to the handle if preferred.

The Tailwind’s primary medical innovation is controlling the independent movement of the arms by reactivating central neuromuscular pathways.  Dormant pathways are reactivated after repetitive training on Tailwind. Evidence of motor cortex activation after training has been documented in scientifically controlled studies, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fl\/IRI). There are no invasive components to this device. Tailwind requires the individual to move both arms (independently) along a resistance-free track. The movement must be initiated by the individual thus requiring neuromuscular control. Affected hands may be attached to the device with simple straps in order to facilitate movement for the more moderate to severely impaired individuals. After several 5 minute traimng sessions over a 6 week period, marked improvement in movement and function are noticeable in
individuals as much as 20 years post-stroke.

The Tailwind Inventors

Dr. Sandra McCombe Waller is currently involved in research as part of the Claude Pepper Center for Older Americans in Baltimore, with funding to study an innovative combination of bilateral and unilateral training to improve arm and hand function in patients with moderate severity paresis after brain injury. She also studies the underlying neural mechanisms associated with recovery of function with unilateral, bilateral and combination therapies using transcramal magnetic stimulation and functional magnetic resonance imaging. She has collaborated the last 8 years with Dr. Jill Whitall in research involving bilateral arm training with rhythmic auditory cueing. Together they developed and patented a unique bilateral arm training device named the BATRAC.

Dr. Whitall has almost 20 years of experience in mentoring graduate students, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She has been or is currently primary or secondary advisor to 10 PhD students and 10 MS students. In addition, since arriving at the  UMB, Dr. Whitall has supervised 5 research projects of physical therapy students. In the Department’s PhD program she is currently the primary advisor to three students. Dr. Whitall teaches the principles of motor control, learning, and motor development as they relate to rehabilitation. She trains her students to use and develop paradigms to assess motor coordination (e.g., a tapping apparatus; a gait mat; a reaching protocol) and methods of reducing analyzing coordination data. In addition, she and her students are actively developing better methods of intervention for adults with stroke and children with movement problems.

Patented by the University of Maryland, Baltimore. US Patent # 7,121,981.

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