ASU graduate creates tool to help with physical therapy

One wrong move left Daniel Campbell with a spinal cord injury and unable to move from the chest down.

"In 2012, I was finishing my second year of college in Illinois, and I was wrestling with a friend, and I just hit the floor a certain way and broke my neck," said Campbell. "In that instant, I was paralyzed from the neck down."

In that instant, life changed for then 20-year-old Daniel Campbell. The self-described athlete now faced a very different reality.

"I mean, you are working through a lot mentally and it surprised me how early on they wanted to begin therapy," said Campbell. "It was like day two or three, as soon as my vitals stabilized. I was still in the ICU."

Campbell says his idea of rehabilitation differed from that of his therapists, and months after he initially started treatment, he was able to find a clinic in Illinois more aligned with his objective.

"They were willing to focus almost 100% on regeneration, on activity-based rehab," said Campbell.

After about 11 months, Campbell said he could wiggle his toes. Two years after his accident, he took a few steps. Around that time, Daniel moved to Arizona and started rehab in a clinic with fewer resources than the one in Illinois. He knew if he wanted to keep making progress, he would have to take control.

"I wanted something that my therapist could use to help me move my legs when I was in a walker, that's what was missing," said Campbell.

He invented what he calls "The Spartan."

"I brought it to therapy and it worked," said Campbell. "Other therapists wanted to try it, other patients wanted to try it and from there it kind of just took a life of it's own."

Coincidentally, Campbell was an engineering student at ASU, entering competitions to raise money to get the Spartan in the hands of others with similar injuries. 

"In some cases it was critically important," explained Campbell. "It was almost like exactly what I needed to improve the design of the Spartan is what we were learning in class, you know, learning how to do a finite element analysis right at the right moment.

"Earlier this year, the design got to a stage that I decided was acceptable enough for the first version on the market after many many iterations, so I had it manufactured," said Campbell.

Campbell says the Spartan is being used in rehab facilities locally in Arizona as well as California. It should be available to everyone in the fall, even for home use. 

"There have been a few people that report that, with the Spartan, it was the first time since injury that they were able to stand and take steps."