The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Undergraduate BME Design Team Prototype a Sustainable Leg Brace to be Used in Torn ACL Rehabilitation

For his Senior Design Team project Benjamin Arms, senior in biomedical engineering (BME ’23) and core summer intern in the Center for Human Health & Performance (CSI ’22) worked on creating a sustainable leg brace to be used in torn ACL rehabilitation. Arms was part of a team of BME seniors which include Abby Corriveau, Alyssa Mottola, Julia DeAmicis, Dan Donahue, Megan Flanagan, and Benjamin Arms (see photo below). Project title, "Design a Bamboo Anterior Cruciate Ligament Leg Brace to Prevent Valgus Displacement and Anterior Tibial Translation."

The team developed a sustainable and affordable brace that can be replicated in developing nations as an alternative to the expensive braces that are currently on the market. A brace has been created that can limit valgus (inward) displacement of the knee joint as well as anterior tibial translation (ATT) during everyday activities and athletic movements. The brace was built with accessible and sustainable materials, mostly comprised of bamboo, and designed to be fabricated using simple hand tools. The final prototype was tested in a motion capture lab in which participants performed a variety of movements, yielding results that proved our brace limits valgus displacement. ATT is theorized to be limited by the straps and cuffs, which provide a net posterior force on the tibia.

During his internship last summer Arms worked with Ramzi Majaj, staff scientist in the Center for Human Health and Performance, in the motion capture laboratory working on lower extremity biomechanics and ground truth data collection, processing, and development. His training started out with labeling marker data and scaled to building out equations to quantify certain features of human movement. Using these skills to then build a brace out of bamboo, for his senior design class, where a laboratory protocol was developed to access how lower extremity biomechanics differs with the brace on and without the brace. In summary the brace limits the motion of the knee by reducing the frontal plan movement. Frontal plain movement with flexion at the knee could lead to ACL injury in performance athletes. 

"Being a part of the CH2P team and working in the motion capture lab this past year has been an amazing experience for me and allowed me to gain valuable problem solving and analysis skills. The testing done on our leg brace would not have been possible without having access to the lab and everything I have learned this past year, so I am truly grateful for that experience."

Though this is not a consumer grade product, the approach that was used could very well be translated to more sophisticated devices for the lower extremity, potentially protecting or helping an individual that is recovering from a knee injury. The bamboo was chosen as it is highly sustainable resource due to its rapid growth rate and ability to regenerate after being harvested. It's also resistant to pests and diseases, making it an ideal eco-friendly building material, which makes it more affordable, accessible, and sustainable for developing nations.

Project was done under the supervision of Prof. Seth Donahue, BME and the testing performed in the human motion lab was done under the supervision of Ramzi Majaj, staff scientist in the Center for Human Health and Performance, IALS.