Amber Fiene is always eager to hit the hardwood with other teammates at Edgewood College. A year and a half ago, in the first five minutes of her first game of her freshman year, someone hit the side of her knee.
"I tore my ACL, MCL and meniscus and also had some cartilage damage and bone bruising as well..so it was a pretty significant injury," says Amber.
Four knee surgeries later, her last one in January, Amber is still on the mend. Amber went through physical therapy and was using equipment like this - a regular treadmill. But she wasn't getting good results. Until she switched to this. It's called the Alter G treadmill. It mimics weightlessness. It's like walking on air.
After zipping in, she waits for the machine to calibrate her weight. The air chamber inflates around her and lifts her off the treadmill. Defying gravity, the treadmill allows her to exercise at a percentage of her body weight. As she gets stronger, the percentage is adjusted until she's exercising at full body weight.
"The original alternative is to walk in a pool But instead of walking in a pool, you can have them walk here and un weight the body weight to a point that it doesn't hurt. And we can try to have them walk normally. I can watch from behind to help them with their gait, and tell them to walk a little faster," says Dave Nissenbaum, a physical therapist and owner of Sport & Spine Clinic in Madison.
It's technology that was developed for NASA's astronauts, used by elite athletes, and is now revolutionizing rehab. Amber is running a full month earlier than expected. "This summer I'll be working hard and hopefully by this fall getting back into playing!"
Amber is hopeful she can finish college just like she started, playing competitively on the hard court.
The treadmill has many uses, including gait training for neurological patients and weight control and reduction. It is covered by insurance. Nissenbaum also offers a free session for anyone who wants to try out the Alter-G.