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Biohacking : Running Blades

The carbon fiber based prosthetic known as the “Flex-Foot Cheetah” was developed by Van Phillips and launched in 1996. This running blade had the shape of a Cheetah’s hind leg and was made from a carbon fiber / graphite / epoxy composite. Early adopter athletes used this in paralympic events and by the year 2000 the Icelandic company Ossur had acquired Flex-Foot Inc.  A typical running blade today costs between $15,000 – 18,000 and consists of 30 to 90 layers of carbon fiber depending on the size of the athlete.

Conflict arose in 2007 when Oscar Pistorius a gold medal winning paralympian sprinter wished to compete in non-disabled competitions. Initially the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) amended their rules to ban the use of any technical device that offers a competitive advantage. Oscar worked with multiple research institutes and was able to convince the Court of Arbitration (CAS) that there was no net competitive advantage and was allowed to compete as the first amputee spring in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Pistorius took part in multiple studies  starting in 2007 with varied results. One group at the German Sport University Cologne found a 25% energy economy from the Cheetah flex-foot blades Oscar was wearing. As the results from the different studies came an average of 17% more efficient than a non-disabled runner.

Oscar Pistorius is the easiest person to cite due to the enormous amount of press he received between 2007 – 2013. He was sponsored by Nike, but presently is in prison serving a 13 year sentence. Oscar murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the peak of their careers.


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