New Study Develops
Adaptive Rowing

March 1, 2024

A pioneering rowing program specifically tailored to individuals with spinal cord injuries is on its way to becoming a part of the Cleveland rowing community.

At this point, it all takes place indoors — in a one-of a kind gym where participants in a new study are hooked up to a special rowing machine called an ergometer – or “erg” that uses electrodes to stimulate nerves in the legs which makes the rowing action possible. This fall, rowers will be able to take to the water.

Kevin O’Reilly is local farmer whose life took a dramatic turn four years ago. A viral infection left him paralyzed from the waist down. He was diagnosed with idiopathic transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, O’Reilly faced a challenging road ahead.

Using the stationary machine that simulates rowing without an actual boat, he uses both his arms and legs to propel himself.


Dr. Ron Triolo, professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University, leads the study. He also serves as the director of the Advanced Platform Technology Center (APT) at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. It is hoped this innovative approach will eventually allow para-athletes to engage in rowing with remarkable similarity to their able-bodied counterparts.

“Stimulation-driven cycling and stimulation-driven rowing are not new to us,” says Dr. Triolo. “We didn’t invent it, but I like to think we’ve perfected it.” Rowing, a full-body workout, offers major benefits for participants with SCI.

For more information, reach out to [email protected]

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