Nova Scotia

Bionic knee brace gets trial at Halifax arthritis walk

Bill Horne has osteoarthritis issues and was able to complete a 5K walk with the brace.

Bill Horne has osteoarthritis issues and was able to complete a 5K walk with the brace

Bill Horne will get his own LevitationTM Knee Brace in September for his right leg. He also wants to order one for his left leg. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

A Dartmouth man who has osteoarthritis and other knee injuries was able to complete the 5K Walk to Fight Arthritis thanks to a bionic knee brace developed by a Nova Scotia company.

The walk by the Arthritis Society in Halifax raised $95,000 for arthritis research, education and support programs. Bill Horne completed it wearing the LevitationTM Knee Brace.

"They have two settings, low and high, and I set it on high and I squat down and when I came up I felt like I could jump a tall building. No pain, no effort," said Bill Horne, "I think bionic is a good word for it."

Enhancing natural abilities

Bill Horne from Dartmouth is able to bend his knees wearing the LevitationTM Knee Brace prototype. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

Chris Cowper-Smith, the founder of the Dartmouth-based company that makes the brace, said the brace is different from others on the market because it enhances natural abilities.

"Compared to other knee braces ours is the only one with a powerful bionic hinge, a spring loaded hinge that can actually enhance mobility and provide energy to the user whereas other braces just provide lateral stability to the joint," said Cowper-Smith, the CEO of Spring Loaded Technology.

The brace is made out of carbon fibre and the hinge is primarily made of aluminum. It uses a miniature hydraulic system called a liquid spring. It stores energy by compressing liquid. 

Walking stairs after 35 years

Bill Horne with Spring Loaded Technology founder and CEO Chris Cowper-Smith. Horne said for the first time in 35 years he can walk up and down stairs wearing the LevitationTM Knee Brace. (Stephanie Blanchet/Radio-Canada)

"[The Walk to Fight Arthritis] marks the first real launch with a customer walking around the track and using the brace in the real world and so we're launching to the world," he said. "We've pre-sold them in over 20 countries and we'll be delivering them in throughout late summer and early fall."

Horne said the prototype knee brace allowed him to walk up and down stairs for the first time in 35 years. He is expecting to get his own LevitationTM by September for his right leg. He said he's already talked about getting one for his left leg.

"Sounds like I have the Rice Krispies guy in my knee because they're always snap, cracking and popping. I'm looking forward to getting them," he said. 

Each brace retails for $2,280 CAD and Cowper-Smith says it is typically reimbursable under most insurance plans. He said he has sold a little more than 300 braces so far in pre-orders.

With files from Stephanie Blanchet