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Zoo News

Zoo News

Dallas Zoo, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children team up to create program to help children with amputations
Jun 17, 2014

The Dallas Zoo and Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC) are joining forces this summer to collect data for a new treatment program for children who have lost a limb to injury or illness, such as cancer.

Starting this week, hundreds of Dallas Zoo campers will participate in a four-part agility course that will help TSRHC researchers create a new test to measure the functional ability of children who have undergone an amputation.

Currently, no such program exists for pediatric patients. TSRHC’s goal is to establish the first pediatric-based CHAMP, or “Comprehensive High-level Activity Mobility Predictor.” CHAMP is a test designed for adults to measure the functional ability of military service members with traumatic amputation and to monitor their progress throughout the rehab process. CHAMP assesses balance, postural stability, coordination, power, speed and agility. It can easily be used by doctors and physical therapists with little to no equipment, and allows them to determine the best treatment on a case-by-case basis.

However, before pedi-CHAMP can be used with young amputee patients, scoring ranges must be developed based on a large number of healthy children without orthopedic conditions. This will allow TSRHC to compare child amputee patients to other kids their age, and can then be used by clinicians and researchers at TSRHC and around the world.

Researchers from TSRHC will attend all of Dallas Zoo’s summer camps, measuring the agility and mobility of campers ages 5 to 16 as they complete the course. Last year, researchers collected data of 275 campers. That data told TSRHC researchers several things:

–          That data is needed from about 100 kids at each age, a total of 1,300 children, to complete the pedi-CHAMP research. Researchers expect to measure the agility test performance of more than 300 children this summer at the zoo camps.

–          That age groups must be separated by single years, and not combined.

–          That boys and girls at certain ages complete the course differently.                                                    

“It’s a time-consuming research project, but once completed, TSRHC researchers will have a new method to assess fitness in children with amputations,” said Kirsten Tulchin-Francis, Ph.D., director of TSRHC Movement Science Laboratory. “This program will enable us to continue our mission of treating the whole child.”

More than 1,000 children attend Dallas Zoo’s 41 activity-based summer camps, which are themed to topics such as animal photography or the behind-the-scenes life of a zookeeper. As part of their camp curriculum, campers will perform a four-part physical challenge: 1) standing on one leg2) moving side-to-side 3) running forward, then side-stepping and running backwards and 4) a shuttle run involving weaving between cones. These tasks may be easy for a child without orthopedic limitations, yet quite difficult for a child with a lower leg amputation.

“The Dallas Zoo is proud to collaborate with one of the nation’s best orthopedic pediatric hospitals to help develop a program to treat children who’ve experienced amputations,” said Patricia A. McGill, Ph.D., vice president of conservation and education. “It also serves our mission as an educational institution. Not only is the agility course fun for our campers as they cheer on their friends and engage in friendly competition, but they also learn to appreciate their own movement.”

As part of the curriculum at the Zoo’s summer camps, children learn about animal activity and movement and see how their movements compare with different animals.

While the agility course is part of the summer program curriculum, parents must approve the inclusion of their child’s data in the study. Personal information will be kept confidential; only data related to the agility course will be shared.

The Dallas Zoo’s summer camps run through mid-August. For more information or to register, go to


About the Dallas Zoo: The Dallas Zoo, recently named one of the nation’s Top 10 Zoos by USA TODAY, is the largest zoological experience in Texas. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the zoo features a 106-acre park, thousands of animals, and an education department that offers programs for all ages. The zoo is located at 650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway (I-35 at Marsalis) and is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit or call 469.554.7500.


About Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children:Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children is one of the nation’s leading pediatric centers for the treatment of orthopedic conditions, certain related neurological disorders and learning disorders, such as dyslexia. Patients receive treatment regardless of the family’s ability to pay. For more information, to volunteer or to make a donation, please call (214) 559-5000 or (800) 421-1121 or visit