CFRP implant helps put Olympic sprinter back on his feet after horrific motorcycle accident

The hopes and dreams of UK Olympic sprinter James Ellington seemingly were shattered on a Spanish road in January, when a motorcycle piloted by his training partner Nigel Levine collided head-on with a car. Ellington, who had competed in the 100 meter and 4X100 meter relay at the Rio Olympics last summer, suffered a broken tibia and pelvis and fractures in both eye sockets. “I do not know how me or my training partner Nigel are still alive,” he wrote on Instagram from his hospital bed. The injuries “are likely to end their careers,” wrote the Guardian in an article published on Jan. 18.

John Devine of Invibio Biomaterial Solutions, James Ellington, CarboFix VP Sales and Marketing Ron Szekely
UK Olympic sprinter James Ellington is flanked by John Devine, Invibio Biomaterial Solutions, (left) and Ron Szekely, CarboFix Orthopedics.

Six months later, a press release issued today announced that Ellington has “joined forces with Invibio Biomaterial Solutions and CarboFix Orthopedics on his road to recovery and his overall ambition to return to the world stage of athletic competition.” This, then, is a story about how one individual’s determination braced by advances in medical technology can overcome adversity and, ultimately, inspire.

An experienced motorcyclist, Levine was not at fault in the accident in Tenerife, it was reported at the time. The car was driving on the wrong side of the road when it rammed into the motorcycle, smashing Ellington’s legs and pelvis. Levine’s injuries, while serious, were not as extensive, reported the Guardian. “Me and him are both strong characters and will be looking to bounce back from this horrific accident,” said Ellington on Instagram.


In the course of his treatment, Ellington was offered two options for repairing the fractured tibia: A traditional titanium nail or a nail developed by CarboFix using a composite polymer, PEEK-Optima Ultra Reinforced, from Invibio Biomaterial Solutions (Thornton Cleveleys, UK). “For me, it's all about giving myself the best chance of achieving my goal and returning to competitive athletics,” said Ellington. “I chose the Carbofix nail because of its lighter weight and for its faster healing potential." The composite polymer rod is strong, similar to metal implants, but not as stiff, explained Ellington. “It has the capability to stress the bone more and provide some micro-motion, so it works more like natural bone. The idea is that this will help support a quicker recovery, which is what convinced me this was the right path,” said Ellington.

"Metals have been used to treat trauma fractures for decades,” commented Medical Business Unit Director, John Devine of Invibio Biomaterial Solutions. “But patient demands for a quicker recovery with fewer device breakages coupled with the global increase in patient risk factors such as obesity and diabetes mean we need to be open to progress. That includes being open to the possibility that new, innovative carbon-fibre-reinforced devices made from less stiff materials could really change how successful surgery and patient recovery is,” said Devine.

CarboFix Orthopedics (Herzeliya, Israel) uses Invibio’s materials to develop and manufacture orthopedic implants made of continuous carbon-fiber reinforced polymers. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Ron Szekely noted that a patient’s determination to “get back on track,” be it in an athletic context or simply daily life, can be an important driver for rehabilitation. “In addition to dedication and enthusiasm, patients need to have access to innovative medical devices that can support this. At CarboFix we believe in the potential of changing trauma treatment to improve the quality of life for many patients,” said Szekely.

A “passion for progress” after a traumatic injury or challenging operation is a theme supported by the two companies, anchored by Ellington's hope to become an active athlete again. The progress shown by Ellington could also help and inspire patients and trauma surgeons alike, whether Ellington is a pioneer by being an Olympic athlete sprinter again, or simply back and participating in the race of life, noted the press release.

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