The Evolution of GyroStim
In 1997 GyroStim inventor Kevin Maher and his wife gave birth to a little girl. Unfortunately, she was born three months premature, resulting in a diagnosis of severe spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. When she reached age 4, her parents were told that her very poor balance might benefit from including vestibular stimulation in her daily home therapy program. She was prescribed a regimen of hundreds of chair spins, log rolls, and somersaults every day. This additional therapy was back-breaking work, balance, and there was no comfortable, practical, or easy method to provide it. There had to be a better way.
Inspired by this problem, Kevin applied his 25 years of experience with robotics systems towards engineering a solution. He designed and built an easier, safer, and more efficient way to provide his daughter with vestibular stimulation, resulting in the first prototype of the GyroStim. Maher’s daughter, Mackenzie, made unexpected and rapid gains, not only in balance, but also in other gross and fine motor abilities, trunk control, energy level, speech, and overall abilities. It soon became apparent that the vestibular stimulation from his unique combination of pitch and yaw rotations had triggered a cascade of significant additional gains well beyond the goal of simply improving her balance.
Kevin continued developing his unique rotating chair, and soon his work captured the attention and interest of therapists, doctors, and researchers. Their acknowledgment of the immense need for this innovative device and his desire to make it available to others who could benefit from it reinforced his decision for moving forward with development of the GyroStim and the launch of a new company, UltraThera Technologies.
Soon after the company was formed, the first GyroStim system sale was to the United States Air Force Academy. The second sale went to the Mayo Clinic Aerospace Medical Vestibular Laboratory, further validating the broader interest in his new technology, with additional sales soon to follow.
In January 2011, one of the NHL’s top athletes, Sidney Crosby, suffered back-to-back concussions that forced him out of the game for most of that year. As recovery continued to elude Crosby, many feared that the head injury would force him out of the game permanently just as his career was at its peak.
In August 2011, still suffering from debilitating post-concussion symptoms (PCS), it was recommended to Crosby that he try the GyroStim. Soon after, he was back on the ice and was eventually cleared for full contact practice. In November 2011, after nearly 11 months of being sidelined due to the concussions, Sidney Crosby returned to the ice in one of the most spectacular comeback games in history. In 2012, he went on to sign a 12-year $104.4M contract extension with the Pittsburg Penguins, and GyroStim went on to become widely recognized for being the breakthrough technology that helped Crosby overcome his concussions.
The Paradigm Shift: From Passive to Interactive
Through 2013, GyroStim was used to provide passive vestibular stimulation--- meaning that the subject seated in the rotating chair received vestibular stimulation without challenges or interactions during rotation. While this simple application of GyroStim was beneficial in many cases, Maher believed passive stimulation was only the beginning of what could be accomplished using GyroStim.
Maher hypothesized that adding an interactive training element during the vestibular stimulation would engage, challenge, and improve the function of physical and cognitive systems (sensorimotor systems) activated during the exercise. Theoretically, this would improve not only balance but also improve the performance of the activated sensorimotor systems, resulting in improved cognition and overall human performance.
To explore this hypothesis, he developed an integrated laser targeting system to provide subjects with interactive challenge during rotation. The subject would use a laser pointer to hit as many targets as possible---while rotating in the GyroStim. This interactive “perceive, process, and react" approach should present significantly greater challenge to the subject’s physical and cognitive abilities than simply receiving passive vestibular stimulation in the GyroStim.
Maher also developed a library of motion profiles, with each profile providing a specific level of intensity, ranging from Level 1 (lowest intensity) to Level 30 (highest intensity). This would allow the clinician to quickly select a level and present the subject with vestibular stimulation and sensorimotor exercises advancing at an appropriate pace for each individual as performance improved. In other words the GyroStim system, library of protocols, and method of use combine to provide easily customizable strategies that progress at an optimized rate of advancement for each person based entirely on their own abilities.
In 2014, Maher put his interactive approach to the test during training camps with NFL, NHL, professional boxing/MMA, and Olympic athletes. The positive outcomes achieved supported his hypothesis with nearly all athletes reporting significant improvements in the areas of balance, coordination, spatial and situational awareness, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, object tracking, reduced brain fog, improved sleep, and also better mood, faster reading speed and improved comprehension were reported.
From there, Maher surmised that this same interactive approach for improving athletic performance would also be beneficial when used at lower intensities to help individuals during the rehabilitation and recovery process. His theory was supported by the reports of clinicians and thousands of people from all walks of life who have benefitted from using GyroStim at lower levels of intensity.
This method of applying vestibular stimulation and sensorimotor exercises simultaneously while incrementally advancing the intensity of training has transformed and greatly expanded applications for GyroStim on both ends of the spectrum from injury and illness rehabilitation to athletic performance enhancement, and, remains the most widely used and successful strategy applied today.
From the very first prototype to the present day, the GyroStim evolution continues, fueled by our never-ending pursuit of improvement beyond the status quo.
Today, GyroStim is in eight countries around the world, helping thousands of people from all walks of life.