Upstate company leads the way in crutch technology

Anyone who’s spent time on crutches knows that navigating uneven terrain or a flight of stairs can be dicey.

They’re tiring to use as well, even just maneuvering flat, stable surfaces. Especially for people with chronic conditions.

So a new Upstate company has developed special tips for crutches that are designed to make getting around easier.

The MTip is a 3-inch long rubber crutch tip that helps people move and reduces the chances of slipping and falling.

“What we’re really hoping is that we’re able to help people go farther ... go to places they’ve not been able to access before,” David Huizenga, CEO of Tao Life Sciences, told The Greenville News.

“It’s not just for someone who sprained an ankle or broke a foot, but for chronic crutch users,” he said. “Our hope is that by giving them a different option for their crutches, more doors will be opened to them.”

The MTip was developed by researchers at the University of South Florida with the aid of an Innovation-Corps grant from the National Science Foundation, Huizenga said, and grew out of experiments on a shoe to help stroke patients improve their gait.

There are 800,000 new strokes a year in the U.S. and and 16 million worldwide, he said. And some 6 million Americans use crutches, canes or walkers because of chronic conditions while more than 10 million use crutches temporarily as a result of injuries, he said.

So the company also is looking to improve the quality of life for people who use crutches for other conditions as well — such as cerebral palsy, amputated limbs and spina bifida — by addressing problems associated with using standard crutches, said Devin Deangelis, an MBA entrepreneur student at Clemson University who does marketing for the start-up.

“There are a whole variety of problems that come up — hills, stairs and the amount of times you run into a situation where you might slip and fall,” he said. “This product is designed to increase the efficiency and stability of walking on crutches.”

More than 100 crutch users were consulted during development to come up with the best design, Deangelis said, adding that different curvatures help people in different ways. And the degree of curvature can be adapted to someone’s gait, too.

“In the future, we hope to capture those experiences and have maybe a racing tip for people who are running 5Ks on crutches,” he said. “Most people were excited to see the efficiency of their running gait could be increased. So there’s a lot of exciting potential.”

And because the MTip uses kinetic energy to propel users forward, it’s more efficient, allowing users to expend less energy, leaving them up to 30 percent less fatigued, he said.

Kyle Layman, a physical therapist with Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital, said he and some colleagues tested the MTip recently and sees benefits, although most patients would still benefit from crutch and gait training and appropriate fitting.

“The tips seem to provide better traction across various surfaces, including those that are wet,” he said. “Users expend less energy and the tips provide good assistance when ascending hills and traveling long distances. I also like that the tips don’t assist with forward motion until you commit to a step.”

And flipped around, the MTips help in braking, Deangelis said.

“Having a continuous surface that rolls with the motion of the crutch provides more points of traction than the average crutch,” he said. “And it’s more comfortable on slippery surfaces or in the rain.”

The MTip just launched this month and Tao has four other mobility products in the pipeline, including a gait-enhancing mobility shoe, he said.

To learn more, go to http://moterummtip.com/products/mtip-pair.

News article was written and published by , at the Greenville News Online.  


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