Celebrating 25 years of the CRC Gait Lab

On Thursday September 4th 2014, the Gait Laboratory hosted an evening lecture and reception to celebrate the milestone of 25 years of service since it first opened in 1989. The event was well attended by more than sixty guests representing the broad scope of the Gait Laboratory’s links with healthcare professionals specialising in paediatrics, neurology, orthopaedics, physiotherapy, orthotics, academia and more, from all parts of Ireland and indeed the UK.

The Gait Lab team was delighted to welcome back the founder of Charnwood Dynamics, Mr. David Mitchelson, whose pioneering work in the 1980s (initially from his home in Loughborough) led to the development of Codamotion and the three-dimensional movement analysis system that was eventually installed in the CRC. The keynote speaker was Professor Andrew Roberts, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, Wales. Professor Roberts has long-standing links with the Gait Lab and was delighted to return for this celebration.

The evening’s proceedings were opened by Stephanie Manahan, CEO of the CRC, who commented on the organisation’s pride in having developed such an innovative service that has since become an important standard of care in the management of disabilities.

Gait Laboratory founder Professor Tim O’Brien delivered an engaging presentation on the historical context and events that led to the setting up of the service in Clontarf, a journey that started in Boston at a time when gait analysis results had to be painstakingly calculated by hand by a group of enthusiastic paid-by-the-hour research trainees. This prohibitively time-consuming process was later revolutionised by the development of advanced computerised systems that finally made gait analysis cost-effective enough to be considered a clinical possibility. With the completion of a purpose-built laboratory and the first gait analysis in November 1989, the dream of a clinical gait laboratory to serve the needs of people with disabilities in Ireland was finally realised.

In his keynote presentation, Professor Andrew Roberts shared photos and memories of his early links to the CRC Gait Laboratory and Professor O’Brien’s team. On his first visit in 1991, he was impressed not only with the innovative and world-class Gait Laboratory, but with the CRC itself as an integrated organisation where all specialist services were located under one roof, meaning that people with complex disabilities did not have to move between different services. This, he felt, was essential to achieving the best outcomes for people with disabilities and was an example for the rest of the world to follow. Given the important contribution of gait analysis to the management of people with cerebral palsy, it was fitting that the focus of Professor Roberts’ presentation should then turn towards an update on orthopaedic management in this condition. Despite many advances in medicine in recent decades, there is much to be learned in the quest to optimise walking in CP, and predicting outcome remains elusive. Professor Roberts gave particular focus to Oswestry’s experience in selecting, performing and measuring outcomes in selective dorsal rhizotomy.

Gait Laboratory manager Mike Walsh closed the evening’s proceedings, thanked the speakers and invited all in attendance to continue their discussions over refreshments. This gave colleagues past and present a chance to catch up and look forward to the next 25 years.