More than 50 British soldiers have received advanced bionic legs since February 2013

Bionic legs improve mobility of injured soldiers

More than 50 patients have been fitted with high-tech bionic legs since the UK government released £6.5m in February this year to make the technology available to wounded soldiers.

The state-of-the-art micro-processor limbs, known as the Genium legs, offer a considerable improvement in mobility to those who have lost their own limbs and have been made available to military personnel injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

During a visit to a military rehabilitation centre at Headley Court in Surrey, the UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has met several patients who were recently fitted with the advanced prosthetics technology.

"They're much more confident on the leg, that it's going to do what they want it to do: walking up and down stairs, stepping over objects, walking backwards and, you wouldn't think of it, but, critically, being able to stand still,” Hammond said.

"Everybody has said that the ability to stand still - confident that the leg isn't going to give way - is a major improvement."

All wounded servicemen and women now have access to the ''bionic leg'' - made famous by the British Paralympic discus thrower Derek Derenalagi last summer - where clinical conditions indicate the limb is appropriate. According to the soldiers using the technology, the leg's micro-processor knee is the most impressive improvement compared with previously available prosthetics. The knee can be controlled remotely and enables switching between various activities including running, bowling or table tennis.

"It's our number one priority to make sure that serving personnel and veterans with limb loss get the very best treatment, the very best prosthetics available, that are clinically appropriate and that we can properly support,” Hammond said.

"It doesn't stop with the Genium of course. Technology is moving on all the time and the prostheticians here are constantly looking at new technology, new developments. When we're confident that any new development is appropriate and is proven and is safe to use we will make sure that it is available to people who can benefit from it."

Some of the amputees have described how the micro-processor knee has dramatically improved their quality of life.

"It's a lot better, with more functionality than the leg I had previously,” said Sergeant Craig Gadd, who had lost his leg from the knee down after stepping on a hidden improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan in October 2010.

"Most of the guys go out to Afghanistan as fit as they have ever been. They are very fit men, being able to do pretty much anything that they want to do. When guys lose their limbs they still want to be able to do that, so having the best functional leg that will give you that ability is very important. It enables you to do a lot more everyday things," he said.

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