Ergonomic crutch emerges from a designer's pain

March 26, 2012

Jeff Weber, who helped design the award-winning Aeron chair at Herman Miller, broke his ankle six years ago and was relegated to traditional crutches for about 13 weeks.

That was 13 weeks too many.

"He suffered the consequences of traditional crutches: a lot of pain under the arm, carpal tunnel issues at the

Stylish new crutches are described as more ergonomic than traditional crutches.  Photo: BASF

wrist, and a lot of hand abrasion," says Jeff Stoner, a business associate. "He got frustrated, and he said this is a solvable problem."

A team at his Studio Weber & Associates (Minneapolis, MN) researched the problem, developed several iterations, and commercially introduced new crutches that are designed to be significantly more comfortable.

They will be on display at NPE2012 (Orlando, FL) next week as part of the International Plastics Design Competition organized by the Society of the Plastics Industry. Categories at the competition, which began at NPE2009, include applications for packaging, medical products, bio-process systems, nanotechnology, energy efficiency and bio-based materials.

Weber's new crutches, called Mobilegs, are curved so that the grip handles are in a more comfortable location.  The saddle that fits under the shoulder is padded more than traditional crutches and also includes a swivel feature, allowing it to pivot with body movement.

The saddle frame is made from BASF's Ultramid B3EG6 glass-filled nylon. BASF entered Moblegs in the design competition. Other plastics used in the crutches are polypropylene, other nylon-based materials, thermoplastic elastomer in the foot, and a proprietary material in the saddle mesh. Stoner, who is vice president  for sales and marketing at Mobilegs, says that the crutches are manufactured in China.

The crutches were commercially launched last year and "several thousand" have been sold. OA Centers for Orthopedics in Maine are now issuing Mobilegs Crutches as standard practice for patients at their facilities. Stoner says that a national distributor recently was enlisted to carry the product.

The standard model, called the "Universal" sells for $69.99, while a model with more features called the "Ultra" sells for $129.99. Standard wooden crutches sell for $45 to $65.




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