Monday, April 21st, 2014

Mend it like Beckham with a Plastics Air Boot

By Michael Salmon, Public Affairs Manager

We’ve all seen the impact plastics has in the medical arena, but the role plastics play in a medical situation really hit home at SPI recently when our own Tracy Cullen, the senior vice president of communications and marketing, had a fall and broke her foot. A majority of the plastic air boot Tracy was fitted with is made of plastic.

Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker

Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker

“My orthopaedic doctor outfitted me with a lightweight, removable plastic boot,” Cullen explained.  “It is made of a durable, semi-rigid plastic shell, and four air cells line the boot to support my foot and ankle … I simply use a plastic hand bulb to inflate and deflate the air cells as needed for a snug fit, and I’m told that  this compression will reduce swelling and pain.

The boot, a.k.a. the Bota Shell Air Ankle Walker, is made by Breg, Inc. of Carlsbad, California. The shell “offers the same support, comfort and compliance as Breg’s Vectra product line with the added convenience of a lightweight, durable, semi-rigid shell,” of plastic.

Tracy was instructed to remove the air boot to flex and exercise her foot, ankle and leg muscles  in order to prevent stiffness and muscle atrophy. And that’s precisely why this type of plastic air boot is now commonly used to treat professional athletes like David Beckam, Wayne Rooney and others who suffer from Metatarsal fractures, sprained or broken ankles. It reduces pain and overall healing time so professional athletes and association execs alike can quickly get back in the game.

It wasn’t too long ago when the doctors would have broken out the plaster and made a bulky cast on Tracy’s foot, but in the past few decades, plastics have made health care simpler and less painful. They have reduced healing time, relieved pain and cut medical costs.

“I’ll be in my air boot through my rehabilitation period until I am ready to start walking normally,” Cullen said.  “I’ll simply start walking while still in the plastic boot—there is a tough rubber sole to provide traction.”

To complement the cast, Tracy is also using a knee scooter in lieu of crutches for enhanced mobility. The knee scooter is another medical device that benefits greatly from plastics. The wheels, leg rest and brake cable coverings are all products of the plastics industry. “Crutches are so 19th century,” Cullen joked as she rolled down the hall.

As has been mentioned in previous blog posts, the plastics industry is responsible for much advancement in the world of medicine. State-of-the-art medical equipment utilizes plastic and helps people recover, rehabilitate, and regain their quality of life. Whether it is medical equipment such as stethoscopes made using polypropylene and polystyrene, or disposable medical applications (blood bags, tubing, catheters, examination gloves and inhalation masks as examples) made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane, or incubator domes made from acrylic or polycarbonate to defend premature infants against infection, plastics are there.

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