|Back to News Release Index|
For Release: December 20 1996
NASA TECHNOLOGY LEADS TO INNOVATIVE DEVICE TO AID STROKE AND KNEE INJURY PATIENTS
The inventors of a new, innovative knee brace aren't medical researchers or physicians. Rather, they are a group of engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., who are using space technology to help those recovering from strokes and knee injuries.
The device, called the Selectively Lockable Knee Brace, could mean quicker, less painful rehabilitation by allowing movement of the knee. Knee braces now on the market lock the knee in a rigid, straight-leg position.
"It is designed to help patients who have a loss of muscle control from the thigh down due to a stroke or accident," said Marshall engineer and co-inventor Michael Shadoan.
"The Selectively Lockable Knee Brace allows the knee to function while supporting the leg," explained co-inventor Neill Myers. "The brace may be used by a patient recovering from a knee injury when the patient needs to use the knee, but the knee cannot carry the full weight of the patient."
The upper part of the brace attaches around the thigh, with the lower part secured by a stirrup around the shoe. "It works by allowing the knee to bend when weight is not on the heel," said Myers. "Once weight is placed on the heel, the knee brace locks into position."
Shadoan, Myers, and co-inventors John Forbes, Kevin Baker and Darron Rice have invested time over the last three years to design the prototype of the brace. Through the Technology Transfer Office at Marshall, these propulsion engineers are using space technology to develop needed products on Earth.
"The knee brace is a spin-off of technology used in developing propulsion systems at Marshall," said Shadoan. "Mechanisms and materials used in propulsion systems were applied to the design of the knee brace."
Although it is uncertain when the brace will be available, the inventors are working with a private company to test the prototype and verify the design. "Field tests now underway will allow us to gather the information needed to 'tweak' the brace for final design," said Shadoan.
The inventors recently received a patent on the Selectively Lockable Knee Brace based on its commercial applications. And as commercial companies work with the inventors to evaluate and modify the brace, it moves a step closer to final design and manufacturing -- then into the market place, where it can offer help to people with special needs.
Prepared by Joy Carter