Weightless treadmill allows patients to make new strides

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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) When it comes to recovering from a broken bone, treatment is different for everyone. Now, a new piece of equipment could get people back on their feet no matter their athletic ability.

"I broke the tibia, had to get a plate and six screws," said Tim Stotz.

He says he was trying to keep up with his kids on the slopes when he got hurt this winter. Doctors told the Underhill dad to stay off his leg for three months.

"You feel like a caged animal," said Stotz. "You want to go but you can't; you've got to let the bone heal."

Once he was cleared for physical therapy, Stotz said the timing was perfect.

"After the first week, I ran two miles on this and I couldn't even walk without crutches, but I was able to get back to my natural way and feel my muscles come back," he said.

An anti-gravity treadmill is a new piece of equipment helping patients make new strides. Although there are a few in Vermont, none are like the one at PT-360 Williston. It's the first model in the state to have stride smart technology.

"It gives feedback to the patient while they're in there, so they can see what they're doing. They can see how much weight they are putting on their feet," said Edie Bernhardt, a physical therapist at PT-360.

Bernhardt says having this machine helps many patients, not just athletes.

"They're people who have had joint replacements, people who have had fractures, foot pain," Bernhardt said.

She says before the Williston office got this machine, it was challenging to help clients recover and feel motivated.

"People tend to not be as engaged because it gets depressing if you've been off your feet three or four months," said Bernhardt.

With the air pressurized chamber, patients have control over how much body weight the treadmill carries.

"I've gone from 20 percent rate to 50 percent and will probably go to 60 or 70 soon," said Bernhardt.

Stotz says the new technology has put him back on track to run again very soon. PT-360 officials say the machine has an assistance bar, so wheelchair-bound patients can get into the machine on their own. It's something no other therapy office has in the state.