Josh Green has been an amputee almost his entire life. Born with his tibia, fibula, and femur fused together, he underwent a transfemoral amputation when he was only four years old. After being fitted with a pediatric prosthesis, he adapted quickly, and less than a year later was playing T-ball with his peers.
“My parents didn’t treat me any differently than my brothers,” said Green. “We all played sports and I played all through high school-golf, basketball, and baseball. I was able to function.
“The place where I got my prosthesis, whatever they supplied, I wore. I was fitted with a suction socket once, but with the sweat, it always came loose. There weren’t any other options,” he said. “I was a chef for 12 years but I had to give it up because I couldn’t do the long hours anymore.”
Things turned around for Green when a representative from WillowWood happened to see him in the lobby of a healthcare center. “They were looking for amputees to test a new socket system. When they heard my story, I was chosen.”
The Pathway to Making a Difference
WillowWood, in collaboration with The Ohio State University and The University of Akron, received a $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative to improve socket technology for transfemoral amputees.
The goals of the initiative were to give transfemoral amputees a socket system that was comfortable, controlled pistoning, reduced sweating, allowed for a comfortable walking gait, and monitored and responded to a user’s activity level.
After 26 months of development and testing, the project concluded with three key innovations:
- A side-mount vacuum pump design allows a more anatomically correct knee center and aids in sitting.
- A liner that regulates skin temperature by incorporating a phase change material that stores and releases thermal energy. The result is hardly any sweating, even on the hottest of days.
- A sealing system composed of a flexible brim and an internal seal allows for an increased range of motion and additional comfort.
During clinical testing, amputees frequently commented that they could put the system on at the start of their day and no longer needed to adjust their sockets repeatedly throughout their day. Another overwhelmingly reported feedback was that the airtight seal for the system did not break. Amputees said they could comfortably move from sitting to standing, walk, or run without experiencing socket movement. Users report that they no longer have to remove the socket during the day to wipe away sweat, and that they participate in activities their previous prostheses did not allow them to do.
“Now I’m an active, stay-at-home dad with my two-year-old, and starting this year, I’m the JV coach for basketball and baseball for my older boys,” said Green. “I’m really excited for this new opportunity. I also have been umpiring baseball games for the local traveling team. It’s not a luxury to be able to function!”