Search Icon White

Cybathlon 2016: Standards Support Planned Bionic Sporting Event

In most athletic competitions, using technology to give yourself a competitive edge over other athletes could get you disqualified. That's not the case for participants in the Cybathlon, an international athletic event scheduled to be held in Switzerland in October 2016. The event - which will feature athletes with disabilities who make use of prosthetics, exoskeletons, and other assistive devices - will award medals to the winning athletes, known as "pilots," and to the companies that developed the technologies they used. In the run-up to this unprecedented competition, standards can provide manufacturers and others with useful guidance regarding the safety and effectiveness of the devices used by the event's athletes.

The Cybathlon will feature six different events involving a wide range of technologies and athletic disciplines, including a foot race featuring pilots with leg prostheses. An International Standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) can provide prosthetics manufacturers and others with important guidance. ISO 10328:2006, Prosthetics - Structural testing of lower-limb prostheses - Requirements and test methods, includes strength tests for lower-limb prostheses, including above-knee and below-knee devices. The standard was developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 168, Prosthetics and orthotics; ASTM International, an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member and audited designator, serves as the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to ISO TC 168.

The Cybathlon's planned bicycle race will feature athletes with spinal cord injuries using Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) to pilot their vehicles around the race track. ASTM F2711-08(2012), Standard Test Methods for Bicycle Frames, could provide important support for the manufacturers of the FES bicycles needed for the event. The standard, developed by ASTM International, establishes procedures for testing the structural performance properties of bicycle frames.

Another planned event will require participants to maneuver powered wheelchairs backwards and forwards through an obstacle course. The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, has developed an American National Standard that provides important guidance related to the seats used in wheelchairs. ANSI/RESNA WC-3:2013, RESNA American National Standard for Wheelchairs - Volume 3: Wheelchair Seating, is focused on postural support and tissue integrity management assistance for wheelchair users.

Perhaps the most unusual event planned for the Cybathlon is the brain-computer interface race, where paralyzed pilots will control vehicles in a computer game with their mind. One promising method of mind-to-computer communication uses electroencephalographs to record electrical brain activity, providing a basis for mind-driven control of computers and other machines. IEC 60601-2-26 Ed. 3.0 b:2012, Medical electrical equipment - Part 2-26: Particular requirements for the basic safety and essential performance of electroencephalographs, provides safety and performance requirements for electroencephalographs in the clinical environment. This standard was developed by International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) TC 62, Electrical equipment in medical practice, Subcommittee (SC) 62D, Electromedical equipment. The U.S. plays a strong leadership role in the work of TC 62, with Dr. Rodolfo Godinez of the United States serving as chair. ANSI member the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) serves as the United States National Committee (USNC)-approved TAG Administrator for IEC TC 62. The U.S. also holds the secretariat duties for SC 62D, which the USNC has delegated to the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer; AAMI also serves as the USNC-approved U.S. TAG Administrator to SC 62D.

This exciting event promises to give athletes with disabilities an important new opportunity to showcase their skills while also encouraging the creation and refinement of technologies beneficial to many other persons with disabilities. And when developing the devices that will assist Cybathlon pilots in their athletic feats, participating companies will have an array of helpful standards to draw from.

To learn more about the Cybathlon, visit its official site.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


[email protected]

Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


[email protected]