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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

VIDEO: ODU Researchers Use "Fit Socks" to Analyze Patient Clinical Disorders

A team of researchers led by ODU professor Steven Morrison, along with neurologists from Sentara Healthcare, is using fitness-tracking technology as a way to track movement and detect early signs of trouble related to clinical disorders that impact walking.

Rather than traditional wristbands like Fitbits, Morrison, an endowed professor in the University's School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, and his group are using socks.

Developed by Sensoria, the washable socks are wired with sensors that detect step numbers and gait patterns. A removable device attached to the sock can gather five to seven days' worth of information.

Morrison's group is as interested in gaps of activity as they are in the number of steps they see.

Falls are becoming increasingly common as the country's aging population continues to grow, especially for disorders like Parkinson's disease and diabetes. By using socks to track activity, doctors may better predict whether patients are utilizing medication properly, if at all. They can also monitor gait to check if patients are distributing weight efficiently or are at risk of falling.

"The 'silver tsunami' of older adults over the age of 65 is expected to double over the next 20 to 30 years." Morrison said. "We are going to have more older adults at risk for falls, so anything we can do to decrease that risk will be better for the population as a whole."

Right now, the team is in process of conducting a pilot test with 60 participants to see whether the data they collect from the socks are reliable. So far, what they've seen is promising.

Eventually, Morrison envisions approaching groups like the National Institutes of Health and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for grants to explore the project further.

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