Physical therapy professor invents therapeutic device to improve patient outcomes

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Dr. Brad Profitt, assistant professor in the Marshall University School of Physical Therapy, has developed a therapeutic device used to regain knee extension after an injury or surgery. Profitt has a patent pending for his invention and recently received a $10,000 grant from the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) to develop and produce a prototype.

While undergoing his own knee surgery he wanted to design a device that would allow him to regain full extension of his knee and normalize his walking quickly and correctly, Profitt said.

"Most everyone that has any type of knee surgery will need an outside force to help regain full extension, and this device is designed to do just that," Profitt said. "Returning to a normal walking pattern is often the hardest thing to restore after a knee surgery. While I was in physical therapy for my own knee surgery, I had an idea to create a device that would be smaller, portable and less costly than what is currently available."

Profitt said for now he’s referring to his invention as the KED, or Knee Extender Device, but said the official name would be determined by whoever licenses the patent. He said none of this would be possible without the support of the Technology Transfer Office at Marshall and RCBI.

"I don’t think many of my faculty colleagues realize Marshall has resources like this to help us turn our ideas into reality.  If we figure out a way to make things easier or more effective, Marshall is here to help get those concepts turned into tangible products," Profitt said. "Right now, I’m working with RCBI to finalize the prototype – working with things like carbon fiber, aluminum, and other different materials to make improvements. We want this device to be lightweight, portable and affordable because getting your knee straight after surgery or injury won’t wait for a vacation or travel limitations.  The ultimate goal is to get this device in the hands of patients for home use to promote carryover between their physical therapy visits."

Derek Scarbro, director of RCBI’s Appalachian Hatchery program, said engineers are working with Profitt’s design to determine and sort the best materials for his device from a functionality and manufacturing standpoint.

"RCBI manages the state’s oldest and largest Early Stage funding program for companies to develop new products and to get specialized technical assistance," Scarbro said. "When Brad applied to our funding program, we felt his idea was a worthy project. We are working with him to assess what will be the most effective means of making this product. We want to keep cost and quality in mind, and we can even help make recommendations on who could source this product."

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Photo: Dr. Brad Profitt, assistant professor in the Marshall University School of Physical Therapy, demonstrates the therapeutic device he is developing for knee surgery patients as they undergo physical therapy.