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The Roll-A-Bout – A Questionable Alternative To Crutches Or A Wheelchair

Roll-A-Boat (Images courtesy the Roll-A-Bout Corporation)
By Andrew Liszewski

The Roll-A-Bout SW-500 pictured above is the Roll-A-Bout Corporation’s flagship model and is designed to be used by people suffering from a lower leg injury in lieu of crutches or even a wheelchair. Not only can the SW-500 support up to 500 lbs, but it’s also the company’s first model that can actually be steered. (Which makes me wonder how you turn with their previous models.) Their website also claims that the ‘hopping’ motion you use to get around with the Roll-A-Bout is preferable to the ‘swinging’ motion you use with crutches. Now I don’t want to make light of anyone suffering from a lower leg injury, but is this really a better alternative to a set of crutches? I can see the advantage to using this over a wheelchair, since it keeps the rest of your body active while you recover, but if I ever had the chance to play around with a Roll-A-Bout, I’m pretty sure my antics would actually result in a lower leg injury.

And believe it or not the standard SW-500 model runs $599, while an ATV or ‘off-road’ version runs $739! The lovely wire basket you see in all the photos is included in that price, but the fancy cup holder seen in that last photo is actually a $15 option.

[ Roll-A-Bout ] VIA [ The Red Ferret Journal ]







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  • Earthworm

    Wouldnt you be putting more pressure on the injured leg with this? I’d think you’d have to have a very specific leg problem below the knee or foot problem to use this, where as a crutch is more universal.

  • Jj

    And look, there’s a drink holder! You don’t have to be just injured – you can also be inebriated. But yes, I agree with Earthworm: a device like that would only put stress on the injured leg. Sure, it could work if you managed to stay on the thing by putting pressure ONLY on the upper part of the leg, leaving the lower part sitting there. But I seriously doubt that would happen. If anything swings/comes at the person’s face, their natural reaction will be to lean back. And in that instant, pressure will be applied to that lower leg part.

    Could you imagine if it was a broken leg? Ouch.

    The only injury I can imagine this device would work for is a sprained ankle.

  • http://www.cadkat.blogspot.com Marius

    This design does not look very solid and stable to me. I do want to see the off-road version in action, I would almost bet that you are better off (a lot safer) with crutches than taking a vehicle like that off the sidewalk.. If the wheels aren’t significantly wider than those on the picture chances are you will get stuck.

    Best advice would be trying not to break one’s legs. That would really help…

  • Anonymous

    i’ve been using a roll-a-bout for 8 weeks now. i have the older version sans the steering. the old one is foldable where as these new ones with steering are not. i had the option of getting the new ones and i opted out because the collapsability of the old one is an awesome feature. can stick it anywhere in restaurants, bars, gyms, etc. Also, the lack of steering actually ensure that you don’t get too carried away with speed making potentially dangerous turns.

    the way you steer the old one is by lifting up on the handle bar pivoting on the back wheels readjusting your direction then putting the front wheels back down then pushing.

    i have broken ankles/feet now for the 3rd time and i can tell you definitely that a roll-a-bout is absolutely freakin’ awesome….IF. If that is you have good balance and are comfortable with the rolling motion. i have the distinct advantage of skateboarding for over 20 years so for me it was like being on my board again (which is how i broke my foot).

    the roll-a-bout saves you from the pain induced by crutches in your hands, wrists, forearm, tricep and most importantly shoulder. it also saves your working leg and feet from the strain of carrying your entire weight on one leg/foot which over time can actually lead to further injuries.

    aside from all that, i am completely enabled with this device. i am an engineer working in an office and this has allowed me to do everything i needed to before without being confined to my chair due to lack of desire to stress my body with crutches. i have been able to go everywhere and behave totally normally. i have even taken it to clubs where people go out of their way to be helpful ’cause this thing makes it look like you have a much more serious injury than you might.

    anyway, i can talk about how great this thing is for days. i literally get xrays tomorrow and may be off of it in 2 days.

    with all that being said, if you are not an active, balanced person with decent strength (’cause you have to fold it, pick it up and throw it in the back seat of the car then hop to the drivers seat) then i can see this thing potentially being dangerous. but again, if you take it slow you should have no problems.

    the ONLY pain that results from the use of this thing which happened to me because i abused the mobility it provides by being overly active is that the padding my get to your kness after a while causing discomfort. also, with how often i was on it the thigh that rests on it sees the majority of your weight if you’re wheeling around a lot. but those 2 drawbacks and nothing when compared to the freedom you get from having it. i think i would have been clinically depressed if i had been confined to crutches.

  • Bill

    I currently am using an Orthopedic Knee Crutch which is supplied by Fabridyne Inc. It works great for me!…There are no wheels and cumbersome straps. It can be used on steps where as anything with wheels can not be.
    check it out at http://www.kneecrutch.com.

    Bill

  • Val

    The best crutch alternative I’ve ever used is the iWalkFree. http://www.iwalk-free.com/ I was on it for a few months and it was just the best device I’ve found. That roller thing is a complete hassle, and you don’t have both hands free when you’re in motion. We dubbed the iWalkFree the “bionic peg leg” I can’t believe I haven’t seen them all over the place.

  • Jimmy

    I recently had a foot injury. I found the Orthopedic Knee Crutch helps in many ways, you can sit on it, use it for going up and down stairs. Also it is alot safer than other devices I have seen. See http://www.kneecrutch.com

  • Teresa

    My husband used this device in 2006 after having a transmetatarsal amputation of his left foot. He’s currently been using an electric scooter since January because of a diabetic ulcer on his right heel. He’s got multiple health problems including congestive heart disease, chronic kidney disease, severe peripheral neuropathy, tardive dyskenisia, a pacemaker, no feeling (except pain) in his hands and feet. Crutches and walkers are totally not an option for him. The knee walkers with turning front wheels are dangerous for him since he’s only got 1/2 of a left foot and no balance. He’s had two surgeries on his right foot and is having #3 next Wednesday. He’s been in the hospital five times since February 18 of this year.

    I’ve been trying to find something used that’s within our budget (less than $200) but every auction I find ends up going over $200. I’m not entirely sure he has the balance or strength to use one so I’m hesitant to spend too much on it. We just spent $600 on a new prosthesis and shoe for his left foot.

    I checked out the orthopedic kneecrutch but the price is prohibitive. The iwalk-free site doesn’t list any prices so that sounds totally out of our budget. If anyone has any ideas for where to find a used anything (but without turning front wheels) I’d love to know about it. My husband has several more months of healing before he’ll be able to walk again.

  • http://www.heathershow.com Heather

    I used a different brand of the same sort of roll-about with the steering capability after I had surgery on my foot, and all I can say is, it was a million times more stable than crutches. It was a real life-saver for me, because I had to stay off my foot for over a month, but due to another medical condition, I wasn't able to use crutches. Sure, it can be a little cumbersome and you can't use it up and down stairs, but if you live in a one-level house, then you'll have no problem.

    Just like any other bit of medical equipment, it's not going to apply to every condition, every situation, or every person. But for some people, it will work wonders, just as it did for me.

  • Tom Schwab

    There are much better knee scooters that turn. the Turning Leg Caddy provides the mobility and stability at a fraction of the bulk and price of the Roll-a-bout. See http://www.GoodbyeCrutches.com or http://www.RammTLC.com

  • Gary King

    The roll-a-bout is VASTLY superior to crutches for foot or ankle injuries. First of all, it is much safer. Crutches are difficult to balance. Second, you are bearing weight on your leg, instead of your arms. This is much easier and more natural. Third, you can carry things. There is no way to carry anything when both hands are on crutches, but with the rollabout, you have one hand free. I used the original model 3 years ago. It is steared by simply lifting up on the handle to raise the front wheels a little to turn It's really pretty easy, but a model you can steer is better. Finally, you don't have to buy it, you can rent it, although for me, it would have been worth the price since it made working so much easier and more productive. I would have lost a lot of money being less productive with crutches. Finally, it is much faster. You can get through malls or office buildings (or hospital corridors) VERY fast with it. Overall, I don't know one way that crutches are superior. I am a physician and recommend these to all my patients who will be non weight bearing with foot or ankle injuries or surgeries. G. King, M.D.

  • Gary King

    The roll-a-bout is VASTLY superior to crutches for foot or ankle injuries. First of all, it is much safer. Crutches are difficult to balance. Second, you are bearing weight on your leg, instead of your arms. This is much easier and more natural. Third, you can carry things. There is no way to carry anything when both hands are on crutches, but with the rollabout, you have one hand free. I used the original model 3 years ago. It is steared by simply lifting up on the handle to raise the front wheels a little to turn It's really pretty easy, but a model you can steer is better. Finally, you don't have to buy it, you can rent it, although for me, it would have been worth the price since it made working so much easier and more productive. I would have lost a lot of money being less productive with crutches. Finally, it is much faster. You can get through malls or office buildings (or hospital corridors) VERY fast with it. Overall, I don't know one way that crutches are superior. I am a physician and recommend these to all my patients who will be non weight bearing with foot or ankle injuries or surgeries. G. King, M.D.

  • Susan Robbins

    Some of the comments here just amaze me. What if someone takes a swing at your face when you're on this contraption? Well, how about when you're on crutches? No one's ever taken a swing at my face in my life, so that's the least of my worries.

    As as far as the drink cup meaning you can be inebriated is concerned: does “drink” automatically mean alcohol? To mean it usually means water. Maybe coffee or tea. To some people it may mean a carbonated beverage. It's really helpful to be able to carry around a beverage so you don't get dehydrated. (Try carrying ANYTHING on crutches sometime.)

    I broke my ankle week before last and am in a non-weight-bearing cast. I have not tolerated crutches well at all (my weight plus an old shoulder injury) and have not been able to get around my apartment easily much less return to work, which I very much want to do. Asked my orthopedist on my second visit about one of these things and he said sure. Picked it up Saturday, with the help of a friend, and will be returning to work today. Have been zipping around the apartment all weekend. So many people, young and old, fit or not, have broken lower limbs here in Cincinnati during snow/ice storms recently that the medical supply places can't keep this kind of device in stock.

    It has given me my life back, more or less. This non-steerable model is not only collapsable-to-flat (I thought the steerable one was too, actually, but someone else said it is not), but is only 14 lb so I can drag it (folded) up the 7 steps to my apartment, which I can manage by going up and down on my rear. Frankly, it is my new best friend, unlovely though it is. Make fun of it if you wish, but it's relieved a great deal of stress on all the OTHER parts of my body, relieved the depression that was setting in, and allowed me to go back to work.

  • Dogwood

    The roll-a-bout saved my sanity (not to mention my arms, shoulders, etc.) when I had foot surgery a few years ago. It was recommended by my surgeon & my insurance covered the rental costs (I paid for the shipping.) I was over 60 and had no trouble maneuvering the non-steerable version or balancing. It was great to be able to “stand” at a sink and have my hands free. Also great to be able to roll around and carry a cup or a book in the other hand (no fancy model.) This is for people with lower leg and foot injuries, and it is a blessing.

  • NormanF

    The roll-a-bout is great for a knee injury. Its much better than crutches and even a walker I picked up from the thrift store. Its not difficult to learn how to use and if you've got good upper body strength and a good unaffected leg, getting up to speed is as natural as using a cane. I can recommend it to keep a leg or knee non weight bearing for the time it takes to recover from an injury.

  • susanbdot

    Addendum to my previous comment: After using the Roll-A-Bout for a month, I can still say this kind of device is absolutely fabulous for people with applicable types of lower leg injuries. The non-steering model had a very minor awkwardness to it, but perhaps was overall more stable (at least for me). One tends to move very fast on this thing after a day or so, and I can see tipping if it were steerable (and one weren't pretty adept); without that feature one is forced to slow down.

    I think overall I stayed in far better shape than if I'd stuck with crutches (where I couldn't leave my apartment, much less work) or a wheelchair. The opposite leg gets plenty of exercise (more, of course, the farther one travels — going through hallways at work in a medical school/hospital complex kept me moving without being outside), but the injured leg ALSO gets some muscle work, at least the thigh, and my PTs told me that helped reduce atrophy from my cast. Yay for that. Plus I felt MUCH better getting some “exercise” this way, instead of just sitting on a couch all those weeks.

    A potential hazard I hadn't expected: sidewalks and crossing streets. I learned to watch for cracks in sidewalks, so I didn't fly over the front and land on my skull. Uneven spots in streets made crossing more dangerous than I had anticipated. Too all bad drivers aren't more considerate of pedestrians, even those with a handicap (many were great, though).

    I still fail to understand how anyone could think that crutches would be better, safer, more stable.

    And it cost me $75 to RENT for the month (shop was not on my insurance co's provider list; didn't want to wait to have shipped). Considering what that saved me in sanity, missed days from work, inability to shop, etc., WELL WORTH IT.

  • cathy_1960

    Apparently none of you have ever spent a long time on crutches. I used a chair on wheels while still in the ER with a broken ankle and the Dr and Nurses wondered why they hadnt thought of that. Crutches are akward, painful and downright dangerous in bad weather. These are designed only for LOWER leg injuries and do not put pressure on the injured part of the leg. Having ANOTHER leg surgery coming up and knowing several people, including kids who have used these products I will be getting one for me for the 6-8 weeks of non-weight bearing recovery time.

  • cathy_1960

    Apparently none of you have ever spent a long time on crutches. I used a chair on wheels while still in the ER with a broken ankle and the Dr and Nurses wondered why they hadnt thought of that. Crutches are akward, painful and downright dangerous in bad weather. These are designed only for LOWER leg injuries and do not put pressure on the injured part of the leg. Having ANOTHER leg surgery coming up and knowing several people, including kids who have used these products I will be getting one for me for the 6-8 weeks of non-weight bearing recovery time.

  • judebuch

    I've used the standard “non-steerable” roll-about for a total of about 6 months, 3 for each foot surgery. Of course you could steer the standard model just by lifting the front wheels and adjusting the course slightly as you would a walker. I LOVED this device. It is like a knee-height scooter, the strain is off your back and arms, and your hands are free when you park yourself on it in front of a counter (for example). Now, unfortunately I need it for a severe lower leg injury and will happily purchase the steerable model with the basket and 15$ cup holder. It will definitely be worth it!!!