SAO PAULO (Reuters) – A standing paraplegic man kicked the first soccer ball of the World Cup in Sao Paulo on Thursday, a triumphant moment for a research project aiming to give patients who have lost feeling in their legs the ability to walk again.
Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, normally based at North Carolina’s Duke University, has developed a robotic exoskeleton to assist patients’ movement.
In late April, three patients took steps while wearing the exoskeleton, according to Nicolelis, who posted a celebratory tweet on Thursday saying “we did it!”. His team plans to publish research on the project soon.
Sao Paulo’s Corinthians arena has been criticized for delays and cost overruns, but wheelchair-bound fans, including Congresswoman Mara Gabrilli, were pleasantly surprised at the access and army of support staff they had at a rehearsal game on June 1.
About 60,000 cheering fans attended the match between Brazil and Croatia that kicked off the month-long soccer tournament.
(Reporting by Eduardo Simões; Writing by Caroline Stauffer, editing by Ed Osmond)