Sometimes the most advanced innovations are rooted in the simplest questions. In this case, the question was, "If we can help a person with no legs to run, why can’t we help a person with an injured leg to walk?" The answer was the Flex Leg.
As a mechanical engineering masters student at Brigham Young University, Mike Sanders pondered that question when staring at a poster of an athlete running with a compliant prosthetic leg. He thought that if we have come so far in the development of prosthetics as to allow amputee athletes to compete in the Olympics, then we should be able to offer injured people something more functional than a pair of crutches.
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Sanders took that inspiration, along with his engineering know-how, enlisted the help of engineering colleague Mark Roberts, and got to work on a better mobility device for those with leg injuries. After several prototypes, they developed the Flex Leg that you see here – a prosthetic leg aimed specifically at those with full but injured lower limbs.
The Flex Leg offers several properties that its creators believe make it more functional than other mobility aids. It's obviously more natural, allowing you to walk like you would without a leg injury, unlike crutches, which put the burden of walking on your upper body. Your hands are also free, so that you can move and work like normal.
Thanks to aluminum and composite construction, the Flex Leg member is lightweight. It's flexible, so that you get natural shock absorption and spring in your step. According to its designers, it is more effective than other mobility aids at navigating the diverse terrain – bumps, stairs, hills, etc. – that the world throws at us on a daily basis.
Since developing the latest design, Sanders and Roberts have gotten some help from another BYU student, Seth Gonzalez. An MBA student, Gonzalez is essentially the business brains of the operation and is building partnerships to help bring the device to market.
The Flex Leg can't replace crutches for all types leg injuries (we can't imagine trying to put it around a leg cast), and it also looks like it could be uncomfortable when worn for extended periods of time, causing cramping and loss of blood flow. It is an interesting concept, however, that could work well for a variety of rehabilitation purposes.
Source: Flex LegView gallery - 3 images