"We envision the brace will be used prophylactically to prevent injury and post-injury to extend an athletic season …"
L to R: Eric Van Middendorp and James R. Lebolt, DO
James R. Lebolt, DO
Illustration of the areas of the shoulder that were the focus of the brace
Shoulder brace rendering
He’s a surgeon who wants to help his patients avoid surgery. James R. Lebolt, DO, section chief and orthopedic surgeon, medical director, sports medicine program, Spectrum Health Medical Group, knew there was often a better way to treat his patients and give them relief from pain.
“I’ve had high school seniors, athletes, come in with shoulder injuries and have had to miss their entire last season in their sport,” Dr. Lebolt says. “And construction workers who would have to take time off work.”
Dr. Lebolt spends his days helping his patients with upper arm sprains, shoulder pain and strains. At times, there is no avoiding surgery, but many of his patients could be helped with a well-designed shoulder brace. Only—there wasn’t one available.
“Most of the braces available are not much better than what’s available over the counter,” he says. “They are just wraps designed with an antiquated technology. Most wraps offer compression of the joint but very limited support.”
Dr. Lebolt had a better idea, and he took his idea to Eric Van Middendorp, MSE, biomedical engineer, at Spectrum Health Innovations. After listening to Dr. Lebolt, Van Middendorp understood that the common characteristic in the physician’s patients was shoulder instability, often caused by injury to the rotator cuff, labrum, or other muscles or tendons supporting the glenohumeral joint.
SHI began to design a dynamic tensioning shoulder brace to support the various kinds of instability in these kinds of shoulder injuries.
“We accomplished this by using three elastomeric straps that are built into the shoulder brace to provide anterior, inferior and posterior support for the shoulder,” Van Middendorp says. “The straps are guided through channels to control the direction of the tension and are independently adjustable to address multiple forms of instability. We envision the brace will be used prophylactically to prevent injury, post-injury to extend an athletic season or allow someone to continue working, and post-surgery for increased support and rehabilitation.”
The shoulder brace is currently in the design refinement phase, and several prototypes will eventually be tested on volunteers.
“While most shoulder braces restrict motion, our new design allows the wearer to continue to move freely. That high school student athlete can still play in that final, big game.”
“Our next step is to measure the contact points of the shoulder brace prototype and the ability to move the arm while wearing it. The lab can show us quantifiable data for a final prototype, and then we can begin looking for a manufacturer.”