Brown Receives Grant to Develop Load-Limiting Sports Equipment



Christopher Brown, professor of mechanical engineering, is principal investigator for a 13-month, $351,026 award from Sports Engineering Inc. that is funding a project aims to develop sports shoes, skates, and ski bindings that will limit load transmission to the user in order to reduce injuries to the ankle and knee, without diminishing performance.

This is a continuation of a previous project on sports shoes, and also represents the undertaking of two new projects, for skates and ski bindings, using similar principles and designs. The common goal is to limit load transmission, which is the forces and movements transmitted up from the ground. These loads can cause serious injuries, resulting in pain, medical costs, and even the end of the person’s ability to play particular sports.

For example, ACL injuries to the knee cost more than $10 billion a year in medical costs in the United States alone. By limiting load transmission, traumatic injuries to the ankle and knee can be reduced. This research project is focused on embedding a system of tunable springs into the load transmitting structures in the equipment. Research also will look at integrating these new tunable springs into skates and ski bindings, and working on designing and building components for initial proof of concept and testing. About a dozen WPI undergraduate students are working on the project.