TAO Orthopedic Knee Support (1984)

COMFORT

DESIGN PROCESS

COMMENTARY FOR DESIGN STUDENTS

DESIGNERS

GLOSSARY

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"Many injuries heal by themselves without medical supervision, but some, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can hamper or even end your participation in sports."

- William Southmead

Knee pain is one of the most common symptoms experienced by athletes and physically active people. Studio Innova was asked to design a line of neoprene knee supports used in the treatment of 5 ailments: chondromalacia, patella subluxation, pre-patellar bursitis, patella tendonitis, Osgood Schlatterís disease and minor ligament instability. The design solution offers two important innovations: 1) a rear panel made of Lycra that eliminatesĎ seam-biteí or pinching behind the knee, and 2) a removable insert that can be custom fitted to the patientís kneecap (patella) to address various ailments.

The product line was designed for a small Toronto manufacturer of neoprene wetsuits who wished to offset the seasonal nature of their production by introducing a line of neoprene knee supports to the sports medicine market.

COMFORT

Comfort is arguably the most important factor in a knee support as it determines whether or not it is worn by the athlete. Seam bite - a common problem with knee supports - occurs when the thick neoprene pinches the skin behind the knee during bending. This leads to considerable discomfort in activities that require repeated flexion of the joint. The thin Lycra panel eliminates seam bite altogether.

PATELLA INSERT

The removable patella insert was developed in collaboration with Toronto orthotist Terry Difrancesco. It is molded in a hygienic closed-cell foam that can be shaped and trimmed by the orthotist to fit the patientís patella, ensuring maximum support. It fits inside an inner pocket and can be easily removed and replaced.

COLOURS

In 1984, colour was becoming an important consideration for fashion conscious athletes. Our two-tone colour scheme introduced a new direction, one that took advantage of the exciting new palettes offered for Lycra and neoprene. This was one of the first knee supports to break from the traditional black or skintone presentation.

DESIGN PROCESS

In the first phase of the project we researched the ailments and identified key issues to address. It wasnít until we were well into the design development that the solutions and products became apparent to us. Much of the prototyping took place in the clientís factory with the technical assistance of foreman Trilly Lem, who expertly sewed our samples and provided valuable production advice. Studio Innova provided the manufacturing drawings and graded patterns for male and female sizes.

COMMENTARY FOR DESIGN STUDENTS

- Richard Brault

This project was one of the Studioís first contracts in 1984. Dianne and I were in our mid-twenties working from our tiny apartment at King and Bathurst. Like all young design entrepreneurs, our determination and enthusiasm made up for our lack of experience. The client was a small manufacturer of wetsuits, who was supplying us with neoprene harnesses for the Dura 4 spineboard (our first entrepreneurial venture).

This new line of new supports was seen as an ideal complement to the seasonal nature of their wetsuit manufacturing that often lead to the layoff production staff in the quiet months. The client had recently started sewing custom neoprene knee supports for Terry DiFrancesco, a Toronto orthotist.

Smaller manufacturers, particularly those with no design staff or consultant can become good clients for a young design studio. Young firms generally charge lower fees than the more established studios who tend to focus their energy on larger clients and budgets. In this particular instance, we even helped the client secure a small research grant that offset a portion of the development costs.

DESIGNERS

Richard Brault, Dianne Croteau, Sharron Katz, Lorraine Chartier

Associates:
Terry Difrancesco, John Muir, Trilly Lem

GLOSSARY

Patella chondromalacia
(dancerís knee, runnerís knee)
The softening of the articular cartilage on the undersurface of the patella which becomes irritated and roughened, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Patella subluxation
The lateral shifting of the patella resulting in severe pain, locking the knee in any number of positions, or unexpected collapse of the knee. Repeated shifting can also lead to chondromalacia.

Patella tendonitis (jumperís knee)
A painful inflammation of the patellar tendon just above the patella. Symptoms appear after jumping, kicking, climbing or running.

Prepatellar bursitis
(housemaidís knee, surferís knee)
An inflammation of the prepatellar bursa (the lubricating sac lkocated in front of the patella) caused by extensive kneeling on hard surfaces. The bursa prevents the patella from rubbing on the tendon during flexion and extension.

Osgood Schlatterís disease
A very common cause of knee pain in rapidly growing adolescents. The pain is localized at the tibial tubercle where the patella ligament connects to the tibia, causing tenderness and swelling.

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