Madonna's ICARE Device Wins National Award

Pictured in the photo left to right: Judith M. Burnfield, PhD, PT, Director, Institute for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and Carl Nelson, PhD, Associate Professor Mechanical & Materials Engineering, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Update: The Madonna ICARE by Sports Art Fitness (ICARE) won the international da Vinci Innovation Award in the Recreation and Leisure category at the annual event ceremony held April 11 in Dearborn, Michigan. Established in 2001, the da Vinci Awards ( is a prestigious international forum recognizing the latest research and developments in technologies that enable people of all abilities to fully participate in life and society. 

Relearning to walk and staying physically active are important goals for people recovering from a disabling injury or illness. Expensive robotic gait devices can help accelerate a person's ability to walk and build conditioning, but at a cost of $300,000 or more, these devices are not readily available outside of a specialized rehabilitation hospital.

Led by renowned gait specialist Judith Burnfield, PhD, PT, researchers at the Institute for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, in collaboration with co-investigator Carl Nelson, PhD, from the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, developed a new therapeutic elliptical trainer for people of all abilities, even those with extremely limited mobility.

The device, called the Intelligently Controlled Assistive Rehabilitation Elliptical, or "ICARE" system, is based on analyses of more than 130 volunteer subjects with and without disabilities. It provides customized pedal propulsion so it is easy for individuals to begin and maintain exercise on the elliptical. The motorized control has a sensor that automatically adjusts the level of support depending on the person's needs during exercise.

"People of all abilities should have access to affordable technology that provides meaningful and measurable benefits to gait improvement and cardiovascular health," said Dr. Burnfield. "This lack of available therapeutic equipment can lead to other chronic conditions, such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Physical activity is as good for the mind and spirit as it is for the body, helping prevent further declines associated with an inactive lifestyle."

Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital partnered with SportsArt Fitness to manufacture and market the device, which is now available for sale throughout the U.S. and has been purchased by several leading rehabilitation hospitals. The cost of the ICARE is between $15-$35,000 depending on optional accessories, which is a fraction of the expense of robotic gait equipment. To see the video: