Thanks to a University of Dayton student, there are new leg braces, called Freedom Braces, available for children cerebral palsy. The Freedom Brace is a colorful and custom-made leg brace designed to help keep children with cerebral palsy safe and comfortable while sleeping. The brace can also protect against long-term hip, leg, and pelvic damage.
What are Freedom Braces for Cerebral Palsy?
The Freedom Brace is a leg brace for children with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affects the brain’s control over muscles and the nervous system.
The Freedom Brace is an innovative product, made using 3-D printing, designed to stop a child’s legs from crossing when sitting and laying down. The leg crossing can cause severe pain and can even cause long-term damage to the legs, hips, and pelvis.
The Freedom Brace began as part of a class project at the University of Dayton in Ohio. The cerebral palsy leg braces currently on the market were inflexible and uncomfortable to sleep in.
A Dayton-area teen with cerebral palsy knew just how uncomfortable these rigid braces were, so her mother reached out to the university for help.
A mechanical and aerospace major named Spencer Janning invented the brace during his senior year to help keep those with cerebral palsy safe and comfortable while they sleep.
The Freedom Brace is now available for sale, offering benefits such as:
- An increased range of motion for wearers
- A comfortable padded fit
- A custom-made design using the wearer’s measurements
Why Do Children Need Cerebral Palsy Leg Braces?
Cerebral palsy can be the result of brain damage shortly before or during birth. The condition may cause severe and uncontrollable shaking of the arms and legs. It can also impair brain functioning, vision, and hearing.
Depending on the severity of their condition, children may also need cerebral palsy braces to stabilize their legs.
An examination called clinical gait analysis (CGA) is performed to understand each patient’s gait. Leg braces for children with cerebral palsy are commonly used to help keep legs straight and improve walking.
A common gait in cerebral palsy is called diplegic gait, which causes patients to walk with a narrow base and drag both legs. It can cause extreme tightness in the hip adductors, making legs cross the midline. Also called “scissors gait,” diplegic gait can be painful and can cause hip and pelvic problems.
Braces and Sleeping Challenges in Children with Cerebral Palsy
Leg crossing, or scissoring, can be common at night for children with cerebral palsy. This can cause pain and make getting enough sleep difficult. The scissoring can also cause damage to legs, pelvis, and hips — creating even more challenges to life quality.
Parents are often encouraged to have their children wear cerebral palsy braces. However, braces can be uncomfortable because they are clanky, stiff, and can cause sleep disturbances.
How the Freedom Brace Can Help Kids with Cerebral Palsy
Because of the difficulties that the Dayton-area teen was having with her rigid leg brace, her mother spoke to Janning’s class about the features she felt needed to be improved.
One of the improvements she suggested was a better leg abductor. Enter Spencer Janning and his Freedom Brace.
The Freedom Brace keeps legs stable and prevents crossing. However, unlike traditional leg braces for children with cerebral palsy, The Freedom Brace has moving parts so children can adjust their legs to make themselves comfortable.
It also uses two different types of plastic which make the brace durable and able to withstand damage. The teen from Dayton has worn the brace for three years.
Her mother reported, “it just holds her legs at the perfect angle for her, a nice relaxed position. But yet she can still move her legs up and down, stretch her legs out, and she can go wider if she wants. But it keeps her legs from crossing, and that’s exactly what we wanted.”
The Freedom Brace is especially helpful for those with sleep issues caused by leg scissoring because the invention pulls apart and turns. This can keep children with cerebral palsy comfortable in bed while they toss and turn.
Most importantly, it keeps their hips and legs stable, preventing long-term damage.
Cerebral Palsy: Looking Forward with the Freedom Brace
Since Spencer Janning originally designed the first Freedom Brace, different versions have been tested, with improvements being made along the way.
The cerebral palsy leg braces are available in bright and fun colors that kids love. Using thigh measurements, each brace is customized to the individual and takes about 16 hours to complete.
Janning has a patent for the cerebral palsy brace, and it is registered as a Class 1 medical device by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although the brace was originally designed for sitting and laying down, the company is exploring how future versions may also be used for walking.
The University of Dayton gave Janning some money early on to develop and sell his device. The invention has been called “awesome” by the head of the university’s Incubator Program.
She states, “I know it had a huge impact for the original family that he designed it for, but it’s been very exciting to follow the progress.”