When you see a Paralympic Swimmer with a prosthetic limb there’s months of research that have gone into creating the best possible equipment. When you see a Frame Runner, they haven’t just picked up their bike and headed to the track, there’s a whole team behind the scenes.
That’s why this week, we spoke to Sarah Day, a Biomedical Engineer, who designed a prosthetic hand for Swimmer Toni Shaw. And Gordon Ritchie, who’s marketing team have helped Kayleigh Haggo with sponsorships, which has giving her the breathing room to focus on her sport and break six world records.
“When I started studying Biomedical Engineering in 1995 Parasport was not as well publicised as it is now. I remember seeing a poster of a runner wearing a running blade and thinking it would be great to make one someday. Supporting athletes achieve their dreams has been a real privilege.” Sarah Day, a teaching fellow at the University of Strathclyde, has been part of a team to create the perfect prosthetic limb for swimmer Toni Shaw.
Toni, at 18 years old, has already ‘set new Scottish records in the 100m freestyle S9 and 50m freestyle S9 and a new British record for the 100m butterfly S9 at the Scottish National Open Championships in 2019’. With lockdown, as for many swimmers, Toni relied on land-training to keep her fitness up. Meaning that whilst she does not use prosthetics in everyday life, she needed it to help her with the training. Reinforced with carbon fibre and made with a silicon liner, and laminated material: “At the end of the prosthesis is a mechanism that allows Toni to insert tools for different tasks. She uses a mushroom style tool for exercises like push ups, a hook for pulls-ups and a clamp for lifting weights.” All these different tools and attachments enable her to train out of the pool.
“Every prosthesis is customised for the user. The socket, which is the part of the prosthesis that covers the remaining arm or leg, is custom made according to the users size and needs.” Sarah, having been in the field for over 25 years, understands that when it comes to limbs, it isn’t as simple as one size fits all. As an engineer, Sarah has to consider force transmissions and tissue mechanics when designing sockets that attach to the athletes body. The rest of the prosthetic is designed using materials picked out specifically for the recipient of the prosthetic. Things I, as an abled-body person take for granted such as the way my body reacts to outside forces, have to be carefully monitored so that high impact does not mean the prosthetics fail to work for the athletes using them.
With more access to sports prostheses through the SOTA prosthetics service run by NHS Scotland. More people are able to experience the physical and mental benefits from taking part in sport. “Having access to appropriate technology is really important for young people as it helps remove barriers and can be empowering. Research into how people use assistive devices will help us improve future designs.” Explains Sarah about her hopes for the future of prosthesis research and development.
All the hard work has paid off, as the Aberdeen based swimmer has already taken home a bronze medal, for Team GB, the first in the pool.
GRM Marketing and Sponsor Lead are currently working with world-record breaker Kayleigh Haggo, who is a Champion Frame Runner. We are working with Kayleigh to find ways that will take the pressure off so she can focus solely on achieving her sporting goals.” As a para-athlete, Kayleigh, from Ayr, had to look far and wide for sponsorships. Ironically to the rescue came GRM, a marketing firm based down the road in Kilmarnock.
“So far, we have been able to facilitate a sponsorship between Kayleigh and Clarkson Owens Recruitment Limited”. The recruitment company will be providing sponsorship funds that will go towards a new frame runner, the world record breaking frame runner’s new frame costs approximately £7000.
Kayleigh now has a partnership deal with Kurio 3D Compression Wear. These are leggings that, similarly to Sarah’s prosthetics, ‘small, medium, large, just doesn’t work’. In order to get the best results, their 3D scans take over two million measurements to be the most insanely high performance technology for athletes.
PrepCo are a meal prep Scottish company that help customers focus on their weight gain and weight loss, through building up muscle or eating healthier. Using macros – nutrients in your food to help your body react to either weight gain or weight loss – to calculate a perfect meal plan for each individual using the service.
Although this may look like a shameless plug for all your prosthetic needs, and all the equipment to win gold medals and set world records, that’s not what it’s about, not really. It is about the fact that the Paralympics have come a long way and they are making it into mainstream research, funding, and media.