Tech Talk Thursday: The Surprisingly Brief History of The Crutch

Tech Talk bannerIt’s probably safe to say that one of the only things more frustrating than injuring your lower limbs in some way is having to use crutches  after the fact as part of your recovery process. Often unwieldy and never described as comfortable, axillary and forearm crutches are one piece of medical tech that have been around for ages, but thanks to one company it looks like the device may finally be receiving a much needed upgrade.

Traditional crutches have been around for ages, as far back perhaps as ancient Egypt. These were very basic; you’ve probably seen many a film or two where a character is relying on a single stick of wood with axillar (underarm) support to get around (think Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and the character of Tiny Tim). Crutches prior to the beginning of the 20th century didn’t appear to include the handle part typically seen in modern axillary crutches.  The first commercially produced form of crutches were patented in 1917 by Emile Schlick. This design featured a support for the upper arm to rest on. This patent would form the basis of future designs of the forearm crutch.

Emile Schlick's original design. Image courtesy of http://www.google.com/patents/US1244249

Emile Schlick’s original design. Image courtesy of http://www.google.com/patents/US1244249

Interestingly enough, forearm crutches are issued more often in the UK and other countries than in the US, which seems to favor the use of axillary crutches. The reasons behind this aren’t set in stone, though the general consensus is that one reason might be that forearm crutches are often regarded as long-term use tools instead of short-term in the US. In Europe, forearm crutches are issued for everyday injuries as well as more serious injuries and disabilities.

Overall, crutch designs haven’t changed much. Despite the fact that using axillary crutches often places an extreme amount of stress on the underarm, hands, and wrists, the modern crutch really hasn’t seen any significant upgrades, or at least none that have effectively entered the mainstream. Enter Mobility Designed, a company out of Kansas City, MO. They’ve created a more ergonomic crutch with comfort in mind.

The M+D crutch features elbow support, handles that allow for hands-free walking, and interchangeable feet to name a few design upgrades.

Did you know the M+D crutch got its start on Kickstarter? Currently, the company is taking reservations for pre-orders in the US, with an estimated shipping date of August 31, 2016. The project is small-time now, but who knows? Maybe these new innovations will finally bring crutches into the 21st century.

 

Resources

http://www.theverge.com/2016/4/27/11521172/someone-finally-redesigned-crutches

http://www.mobilitydesigned.com/

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00264-013-2266-x

http://www.walkeasy.com/interact/board/default.asp?sub=show&action=posts&fid=6&tid=80

 

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