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Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Bionic Knee Brace Allows Wearers to Perform 20% More Squats

20 September 2016

A few years ago, three Dalhousie University graduates started their own company dedicated to creating technology for those who suffer from physical pain—particularly in the knees.

The company, Spring Loaded Technology, revealed the world’s first bionic knee brace earlier this year, which has proven successful in the lives of athletes, soldiers and those who work physically demanding jobs.

Now the company has revealed some news—its Levitation™ knee brace actually allows users to perform up to 20% more squats when wearing the brace compared to the number of squats when their knees are unassisted.

The knee braces not only stabilize the user’s knee, but also recruit help from a bionic hinge, inspired by the landing gear in aircraft, that enhances leg muscle power by storing energy as a wearer bends his or her knee and then returns that energy when the leg is straightened out.

In its recently conducted third-party study, Spring Loaded Technology found that its knee brace is linked to a significant reduction in factors that can lead to muscle fatigue.

Research scientists observed the oxygen intake, carbon dioxide production and muscle activity of three healthy individuals as they repeated a squat-to-stand task with and without the assistance of the knee brace. Data from the study revealed that participants used 25% less oxygen during the task cycle than when they were not wearing the brace, and wearing it reduced carbon dioxide production by 40%.

The study, performed through the NSERC Engage Program at the University of New Brunswick by research scientists, Dr. Chris McGibbon in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Abeer Mohamed Abdelhady, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, revealed the brace’s ability to reduce demand on the muscles in order to improve performance.

“With the knee brace’s assistance, participants consumed less energy and were able to do more physical activity as measured with our squat test,” said McGibbon. “The participants in this study also demonstrated a reduced respiratory exchange ratio while wearing the Levitation™, meaning they were burning more fat stores than carbohydrates. These findings are consistent with Spring Loaded Technology’s claim that Levitation™ reduces factors known to be associated with muscle fatigue—an exciting and unique accomplishment for knee braces and the field of bionics.”

Participants demonstrated an 85% reduction of activity in the quadriceps muscles and a 50% reduction of activity in the hamstring muscles during a squat task, which assisted in the wearers performing 20% more squats.

Levitation™ Bionic Knee Brace (Image via Spring Loaded Technology) Levitation™ Bionic Knee Brace (Image via Spring Loaded Technology)

The Levitation™ Knee Brace’s assistance is adjustable and can be tailored to the user’s needs, allowing users to specify different settings for different activities, or if the individual is recovering from an injury, to gradually reduce the level of assistance provided to zero as the user recovers his or her full strength.

“Levitation™ was designed to go above and beyond joint stabilization to assist strength and reduce fatigue. The result is a product intended to enhance mobility and expedite rehabilitation,” said Chris Cowper-Smith, CEO at Spring Loaded Technology. “It was important to us to have a study that shows our customers what sets us apart in the marketplace as they make an informed decision about which brace is best for them.”

The Levitation™ Knee Brace is currently available for pre-order for $1,750.

Its features include energy-returning hinge, high- and low-power modes, an adjustable force-output, and a lightweight carbon fiber shell.

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