By LER Staff
Bracemasters International is a 16-year-old company, headquartered in New Berlin, WI, that began as a manufacturer of custom prosthetics and orthotics for a broad range of lower extremity patients. In 2008, the company switched gears to focus on expanding custom lower extremity orthotics for both pediatric and adult patients with a range of conditions and introduced evidence-based education for clinicians designed to improve outcomes with its products.
“We wanted to bring an evidence-based approach to optimizing lower extremity bracing for the custom market,” said Chief Executive Officer Timothy O’Keefe, who noted Bracemasters also offers a line of custom DRAFOs (dynamic response ankle foot orthoses) and a full line of traditional custom products. (DRAFO is a registered trademark of Bracemasters International.)
Since 2008, the company has expanded to provide custom lower extremity devices to a wide range of pediatric, adult, and senior patients, and its products include devices from more traditional rigid control ankle foot orthoses to semiflexible and flexible plastic devices that are alternatives to traditional leather gauntlets.
Two of its newest products include the DRAFO DRG Flex and DRAFO DynaStride, dynamic response gauntlets (DRGs) designed to provide better solutions for moderate and mild early stage musculoskeletal conditions.
The company’s clinical education programs that complement the use of its DRAFO products emphasize working to improve a patient’s alignment, balance, and gait biomechanics in stance rather than swing phase without forcing ankle alignment.
The Bracemasters clinical education program is based on studies from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, that support a clinical approach emphasizing stance phase and de-emphasizing forced ankle alignment; for example, dorsiflexion to 90°.
“The DRAFO stabilizes the limb, promoting the levers of the foot and leg to be aligned to the floor, much like the below knee amputation prosthetic alignment process which induces optimum biomechanical and kinematic attributes to maximize gait,” O’Keefe said.
The company’s DRAFO is made of an outer plastic shell combined with an inner boot made of a unique soft, bio-elastic material, according to O’Keefe. “With these materials, we can produce orthoses with a lower profile design and less structural weight and mass,” he said. “We’ve also been able to achieve great outcomes by combining the control of the device with a focus on alignment and balance.”
According to O’Keefe, the result is that the patient is biomechanically aligned, helping create a more balanced gait.
“Patients who’ve had a compensatory gait move on to develop a smooth, even gait with the DRAFO through an emphasis on gait biomechanics in stance phase.”
Although the outer shell of the orthosis provides support, the flexible inner boot makes full contact more possible, resulting in a more comfortable, effective, and user-friendly brace, O’Keefe said.
Bracemasters’ clinical education program is usually provided through lectures and educational materials distributed at medical conferences, O’Keefe said. “It’s a way for us to illustrate to clinical professionals, such as orthotists, podiatrists, physicians, and physical therapists, the value of an evidence-based approach to lower extremity management. It shows them simple, measureable ways to improve their outcomes.”
Bracemasters’ DRAFO and Traditional product lines are used for any condition of the lower extremity that can benefit from biomechanical alignment.
Bracemaster’s unique, evidence-based approach provides a simple process for effective outcomes measurement, O’Keefe said.
The company’s annual sales are currently concentrated with custom lower extremity orthotic devices, though O’Keefe hopes to expand the company’s bottom line through its plastic athletic brace.
The DRAFO Sport, which has been tested by players on high school, college, and professional sports teams, is meant to prevent injuries such as ankle sprains and enhance recovery from previous ankle injuries. It is prefabricated and available in a number of standard sizes.
“One of our newest product programs is the DRAFO Gauntlet Series, which leverages the unique materials and creative concepts of the earlier DRAFO designs to provide a superior alternative to traditional leather ankle gauntlets,” O’Keefe said.
The new series includes the DRAFO DRG, DRAFO DRG Flex, and DRAFO DynaStride (rigid, semiflexible,and flexible, respectively), which provide flexible comfort while delivering tailored control. The combination of soft and rigid plastics provides the choice of rigid, semiflexible, and flexible DRAFO Gauntlet versions to better tailor a custom brace for severe (acute), moderate, or mild (early stage) conditions, such as posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, ankle arthritis, and degenerative joint disease, O’Keefe said.
“Feedback from practitioners has indicated that this new gauntlet series provides a broader range of solutions than they have typically seen from traditional gauntlets,” O’Keefe said.