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Endurance Athlete Uses Antigravity Treadmill In Recovery After Tearing Achilles Tendon

PARK CITY, Utah — There are plenty of things that can keep you from moving the way you want to — a sprained ankle, bad knees, or even arthritis.

A Park City athlete who was recently injured is using technology originally created for astronauts in space to now recover on Earth.

Brian Tolbert is an ultramarathon runner. “I love being able to move fast in the mountains,” he said.

He can run more than 100 miles at a time. “I can get there in a couple hours now … get there and get back and see a lot of terrain,” he described. “That’s probably my favorite part about it.”

But a few months ago Brian was forced to slow down after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in a skiing accident.

“I was just skiing. It was a blue run … and just lost the downhill ski and went over the top,” he said.

His family rushed him to the ER. He said he was in burning pain. After doctors figured out what happened, he had surgery to repair his Achilles tendon.

Today, Tolbert does physical therapy weekly to get back into shape.

After warming up his leg with his physical therapist, he zips into an antigravity treadmill. It blows up with air, reducing his body weight and the impact on his joints.

Tolbert said he doesn’t feel any pain when he’s on the treadmill. He said it’s like walking on the moon.

He said it helps him “to start feeling the movements and start feeling the form of running and walking and doing the lifts without putting the strain on it.”

Intermountain Healthcare’s Casey Brady, a physical therapist at Park City Hospital, places a camera on the floor by the treadmill for an up-close view of Tolbert’s every step. This helps them analyze his progress.

“You can see how well they’re moving, or how efficiently they’re moving, and then correct them as they’re walking. They can see that visual input as they walk,” she said.

Brady said the treadmill is also effective for people with arthritis.

“It just lifts them up and it de-weights them enough to decrease join impact stresses so they’re able to walk, or even run without any pain,” she said.

She said the antigravity treadmill is helpful for anyone whose goal is to walk or run normally again after surgery or while managing a chronic condition.

Tolbert said it’s been essential to his recovery and rebuilding muscle. “Oh, it’s an amazing tool,” he said. “It doesn’t beat me up like if I got out on the road or the trail and do that same kind of workout.”

By the beginning of next year, Tolbert hopes to be running at full speed.

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