Biomechanics Aware Collaborative Robot System for Delivery of Safe Physical Therapy in Shoulder Rehabilitation

Joseph Micah Prendergast, Stephan Balvert, Tom Driessen, Ajay Seth, Luka Peternel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
228 Downloads (Pure)


In this work, we explore using computational musculoskeletal modeling to equip an industrial collaborative robot with awareness of the internal state of a patient to safely deliver physical therapy. A major concern of robot-mediated physical therapy is that robots may unwittingly injure patients. For patients with shoulder injuries this typically means the risk of tearing a rotator-cuff muscle tendon. Risk of reinjury hampers both human and robot therapists and it is the main reason for conservative physical therapy. Advances in human musculoskeletal modeling, however, can equip robots with additional perception of potential reinjury risks. While the ultimate goal is to improve the safety, range-of-motion and activity that patients receive through robot-mediated therapy, the aim of this letter is to develop and test a framework that enables the robot to understand the state of the patient and to execute physical therapy movements that demonstrate low injury risk and achieve a large range-of-motion in human subjects. We build on prior work in human-robot interaction via impedance control, but take robot awareness of the human to the next level by including and manipulating a musculoskeletal model in parallel to the patient. Taking the most common shoulder impairments (i.e., rotator-cuff tears) as an example, we demonstrate planned, model-based trajectories that minimize strain in these muscles and corresponding robot-mediated movements on healthy subjects. Our experiments suggest that musculoskeletal awareness is a promising approach to plan and deliver therapeutic movements that are safe and effective via an industrial robot.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7177-7184
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Biological system modeling
  • Biomechanics
  • Human-robot interaction
  • Medical treatment
  • model-based awareness
  • Muscles
  • musculoskeletal modeling
  • OpenSim
  • physical therapy robot
  • Robots
  • Strain
  • Tendons


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