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Alpine ski racers live dangerously, the risk of getting injured is always present. Especially the knees are vulnerable, as shown not only by statistics over the last few years but also by prominent accidents such as Lindsey Vonn’s ligament rupture. The knee is not only the body part with the most risk of getting injured, it also takes the longest to heal. Athletes with knee injuries thus have long inactive periods and often have to face the end of their careers, such as Hilde Gerg in 2005.
Even though this risk is widely known, athletes do not want to utilize existing knee orthoses as they feel that conventional orthoses are too voluminous. The straps fixating the orthosis also limit their freedom of movement and thus their performance.
Thus, Innovationsmanufaktur developed a completely new knee orthosis, the PrävenThese together with the Alpine Skiing head coach Karlheinz Waibel, funded by the Bundesinstitut für Sportwissenschaft (German Federal Ministry for Sports Science). Other partners were scientists from TU München, experts of the Olympiastützpunkt Bayern, production experts of phoenix GmbH & Co.KG and experienced orthopedics technicians of ORTEMA GmbH.
The orthosis already saw successes during the Audi FIS Ski Weltcup and the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. The innovative knee orthosis (the name derives from the German präventive Orthese, preventive orthosis) provides maximum protection, freedom of movement, and excellent wearing comfort due to its individual 3D fitting that takes into account each athlete's muscle volume and how it changes with movement. This new concept is met with great approval by the athletes themselves and even has first successes to show: Fabienne Suter came in fifth in the Women’s Downhill in Sochi and placed seventh in the Women’s Super-G – thanks to the PrävenThese! Stefan Luitz, who used the PrävenThese and ranked third at the Giant Slalom World Cup only ten months after the rupture of his cruciate ligament, was on target for a medal in the Men’s Giant Slalom until his mistake at the last goal.
Conventional orthoses are either hard – and able to absorb strong forces but measurably limit the freedom of movement – or soft, which makes them comfortable but less absorbent. Moreover, especially the hard frame orthoses often do not fit correctly and slip.
The PrävenThese, however, functions with a revolutionary principle of different layers: Innermost, there are compression trousers which are proprioceptive as well as supportive to the knee but which mainly provide for an optimal fit of the orthosis. In defined spots, the compression trousers are coated with silicone and thus decrease relative movement between leg and orthosis.
The second layer consists of two carbon frames which in turn fixate the third layer and which can also absorb stronger forces. For this frame, the legs of each athlete are scanned individually with a 3D surface scanner – at rest as well as in different working angles typical for skiing. This data is used to compute where there is no change in muscle volume during movement, that is, where the orthosis is ideally linked to the leg.
The third layer directly clasps around the knee and is the hardest layer of the three, consisting of two carbon frames linked by two joints. It absorbs very strong forces and thus protects the knee, but at the same time allows for movement. The three layers thus become progressively harder and can absorb an increasing amount of force. Due to this interaction, the knee is optimally protected while at the same time the athletes are not limited in their freedom of movement.
After more than two years of research and development, the new (r)evolutionary technology is now available. ORTEMA is a production and sales partner that has a long-standing experience in providing for athletes with knee injuries.<- Back to: Projects