10. The field of orthopedics resulted from helping children
French surgeon Ambroise Paré started the specialty field of orthopedic medicine in the 1500s after he noticed an influx of children born with clubfoot—a deformity in which an infant’s foot is turned inward, often so much that the bottom of the foot faces sideways or even upward. As a result, the word orthopedic is taken from the two Greek words Orthos (to straighten) and Paidi (my little child).
9. Orthotic devices date back to the Iron Age
Any external device that is applied to the torso or limb to help stabilize movement is considered an orthotic. These devices actually date back to the Iron Age. However, given the technology limitations of 1200 B.C., it’s likely that a KAFO (knee ankle foot orthosis) weighed upwards of twenty pounds and were made primarily from wood or bronze.
8. The Chinese played a major role in orthotics
Around 403 B.C., the Chinese invented hardened steel. This revolution had a major impact on the orthopedic industry as steel was used in orthotic devices. While it is still used in orthotics today, technology has made it possible to use thinner parts of stainless steel to reduce the weight of devices for patients.
7. World War I, World War II, and Polio bolstered orthotic intervention
War and disease sparked the biggest technological boom for the world of orthotic and prosthetic intervention. The 1900’s provided a global influence for orthotics, including prosthetic designs, material science and advancements in fasteners. In 1950, under the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, funding for research was established and funding was made possible to develop technology for orthotic and prosthetic intervention and protocols.
6. Plastic wasn’t used in orthotics until the 1950’s
In 1907, plastic was invented. However, it wasn’t strong enough to be used for orthotics. It wasn’t until 1951 that polypropylene was created and proved to be effective in orthotic designs. By the 1960’s, this material was used with a combination of metal for most orthotic devices and the typical KAFO weighed around 8-10 pounds.
5. From aerospace to orthotics
The first prosthetic socket made of carbon fiber was invented in 1966. It helped bolster the durability and resilience of orthotic and prosthetic devices, but the techniques, resins, and fiber technology was still in its infancy. The 1980’s brought with it the development of pre-preg carbon fiber. Pre-preg is the common term for fabric reinforcement that has been pre-impregnated with a resin system. As a result, the material is easier to mold. While this type of carbon fiber was available commercially, it was primarily used by the aerospace industry and was very expensive.
4. Townsend Premier Series of bracing took shape in 1996
Jeff Townsend was an early adopter of pre-preg carbon fiber and started development of the Premier Series of bracing in 1996. After careful research and development, the first brace officially launched in 1998 and offered significantly lighter yet stronger orthotics compared to others on the market.
3. The KAFO that changed the industry
The success of the Premier knee orthosis line is what led to the development of the Townsend Premier KAFO. It was stronger than metal and leather devices, yet weighed far less—only 6-7 pounds with stainless steel hinges, and 5-6 pounds with aluminum hinges. With a much lighter yet durable KAFO, it changed the industry for doctors and patients.
2. The Townsend Hybrid KAFO introduced and even lighter design
In 2015 Thuasne USA/Townsend started development of the Hybrid KAFO. This new hybrid design combined the best of two separate technologies—a plastic AFO that was then attached to a thin, lightweight carbon knee orthosis. The Hybrid KAFO can be as light as 4 pounds depending on components chosen.
1. The lightest KAFO
The development of the Dynamic KAFO began in 2017. This is the lightest KAFO produced by Thuasne USA, weighing as little as 2.5 pounds depending on the chosen knee hinges.
In a short amount of time, Thuasne USA/Townsend has become a global player with a recognized technological, scientific and industrial know-how in the main healthcare markets. With a wide range of orthotic devices providing therapeutic solutions to musculoskeletal disorders and spinal pathologies.
The field of orthotic intervention has come a long way since its humble beginnings. From the discoveries of French surgeon Ambroise Paré, to today’s lightweight carbon fiber braces, orthotics is an industry centered on helping patients keep their independence and enhance their quality of life. Our hope is that each time you prescribe a Thuasne USA / Townsend brace or perhaps wear one yourself, you not only feel confident in our braces’ superior technology but now have a deeper appreciation for the research and development that goes into every design.