When most of Cook County was hunkered down at home to stay out of the bitter cold, a group of 10 combat wounded and injured veterans—many from warmer climes— spent a week skiing and exploring the Poplar Creek and Banadad Ski Trails in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, hosted by Ted and Barb Young of Boundary Country Trekking.
For most Nordic skiers, these conditions—minus 28 degrees without the windchill factor—are far too extreme. But for these wounded warriors, the severe arctic conditions were perfect for conducting medical research on lower limb amputees who sacrificed their limbs while fighting our nation’s wars, explained Captain David R. Olson (Retired), executive director of Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge.
Reached by phone after the Gunflint Trail adventure, Captain Olson said a team of 10 wounded warriors and their support team arrived quietly in Grand Marais on January 2, 2014 for a week-long research project.
The team was comprised of veterans from the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge and the J.E. Hanger College of Orthotics and Prosthetics at St. Petersburg College, Florida. It was an interesting mix of people and personalities, said Olson. Some participants are still active duty military who get special liberty to do these tests. Some are medically retired.
“We have folks from Seattle, Tennessee, California. One is training to be a Navy Seal from San Diego, California. That’s Joe, who is pretty laid back, more comfortable on a surfboard than on cross country skis,” he said.
On January 5, the team departed Bearskin Lodge and set out on the Poplar Creek Ski Trail. Their journey ended January 7 when they arrived at Gunflint Lodge.
Two students in the St. Petersburg orthotic and prosthetic program monitored the progress of the lower limb amputees. They had the amputees use five different prosthetic feet to see what design features work best. The study consisted of suiting up the participating wounded warrior amputees and “control” skiers with lower extremity joint markers (identifiers) while hours of video were taken of them skiing in the subzero temperatures. The students will use the video data to compare the performance of the various prosthetics.