CRUTCHES have been used to help people walk and recover from injuries for generations.

But since French engineer Emile Schlick first patented a walking stick with a support for the forearm in 1915, the only real technological advances have been to make them adjustable and out of different materials – until now.

Using technology similar to that in a Nintendo Wii, Southampton scientists have devised a “smart crutch”, which can tell users when it is being used correctly.

Consistent wrong use of a crutch can make a patient’s injury worse, so it is hoped the electronic sensors attached by the University of Southampton’s Professor Neil White and Dr Geoff Merrett could prove to be a major medical breakthrough.

They wirelessly transmit data to a remote computer and information is displayed on the crutch to tell the patient if they are putting too much or too little weight on it, or haven’t got their hands in the right place on the grip.

Georgina Hallett, a physiotherapist at Southampton General Hospital who helped develop the smart crutch, said it will make it much easier to teach patients how to use crutches properly.

“This will help them to get out of hospital faster and also reduce the risk of them further damaging an already injured leg,” she said.

At the moment the crutch is being used for monitoring and training patients in hospital, but it is hoped it can be developed further for use in patients’ homes.