Specialized bike aids those with spinal cord injuries

By Liz Tufts

The first ever specialized bike aimed at building muscle is up and running at the YMCA in Cranston—a big step forward for those suffering from spinal cord injuries in Rhode Island.

The bike is already helping one person who spent his life inside the boxing ring. Former Providence boxing champ, Gary “Tiger” Balletto, used to spend his days inside the ring, but now he spends most of his time at the YMCA in Cranston.

Balletto peddles six days a week on his Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) bike in hope of getting back into the ring.

“Today is the two year anniversary of my injury, June 30th,” he says.

Balletto is paralyzed from the waist down after a freak gymnastic accident in his backyard. The bike is helping him build the muscle he needs to someday walk again.

“My muscle is almost fully back to what it was,” he explains. “It not only helps those who are paralyzed but those with MS (multiple sclerosis) and other neurological disorders.”

The FES bike is the first of its kind in the state. Electrode pads are attached to major muscles in the legs which are connected to a stimulator that delivers small electrical pulses to the paralyzed muscles, allowing people like Balletto to pedal on their own.

The number one goal is to prevent muscles from going into atrophy. The bike increases circulation, heart rate, and muscles.

Balletto was instrumental in raising the $20 thousand needed to get the bike in Rhode Island, helping others just like him get a second chance to someday walk again.

Those who need it can use it by getting a membership at the YMCA in Cranston, or at the YMCA in Seekonk that also has the bike.

© WLNE-TV 2015