At the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, a Latvian wheelchair fencer wore a customized 3D printed back brace during her performances and training.
Latvian athlete Polina Rožkova traded in her cumbersome back support for a more comfortable 3D printed option for this year’s Paralympic Games.
Rožkova is eighth in the Épée Women Category A world ranking. Her customized back brace was fabricated by 3D printing manufacturer Stratasys, and meant she was able to move more easily.
As she explains in an interview with Stratasys:
“Throughout my years as a professional wheelchair fencer, I have been looking for an alternative, and most importantly, sports-appropriate lower back brace to allow me to fence and move freely without any restraints or pain.”
With a custom-fit and comfortable brace, she was able to better train to compete at the highest level in the Rio games.
3D Printed Back Brace Offers Flexible Support
Rožkova’s previous back brace had been both large and inconvenient, limiting her ability to move. The support was also uncomfortable to wear for training and performing.
Consultations with various orthopedic specialists led Rožkova to Stratasys’ Latvian reseller, Baltic3D. She decided to explore whether 3D printing could offer her a solution.
The team digitally designed a custom-fitted back brace using a 3D scan of Rožkova’s lower back. The team focused on supporting her middle spine as this is an area which can easily be strained due to high-impact movements.
To print the brace, the team used Stratasys’ Nylon 12 3D printing material. This meant the brace was both lightweight and flexible. The brace has since become essential for her Paralympic training and performing.
Rožkova was thrilled with the result. She enthused:
“As the sport puts a lot of strain on the back, I also needed a support that could be replaced easily if it broke during training or competition. I’m ecstatic with the result – not only is the 3D printed back brace visually appealing, but it gives me a level of freedom unparalleled to anything I have ever used before. I feel better equipped than ever to realise my goals and be a champion.”
Having trained with the final 3D printed back brace in the runup to the Paralympics, Rožkova was able to attend the games in Rio fully confident of making her mark.
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