COLTON, Wash. - Ed Robertson has been a physical therapist for a long time, so he's seen a lot of ankle sprains.
And while ankle taping is still the standard for trying to stabilize ankles, Robertson, the owner of Badger Braces, says, "There's a body of evidence that shows that ankle taping doesn't work very well."
So he looked at the problem from a biomechanical standpoint and found the solution.
"I went to Big 5, bought some ankle braces, brought them home, cut them apart, resewed them, added an orthotic and wore it to the gym," Robertson explained. "And it worked. And not just a little. It worked a lot."
Adding the orthotic and changing the straps toward the front of the foot were key.
"I was better able to control the forces that caused the injury. It was a 180 degree improvement in how to stabilize the ankle," said Robertson.
When Robertson realized no one else was doing this, he pursued, and was granted, a patent. But after sitting on the idea for years, his wife gave the company a kickstart.
"She just said, 'Ed, you have to finish this.'"
So Badger Braces went looking for a manufacturer to help with prototyping and designing a finished product. It found one in Grangeville in Idaho Sewing for Sports.
"Their quality is perfect," said Robertson. "Idaho Sewing for Sports had the padding contract for the Salt Lake City Olympics. They're legit."
Multifab in Spokane Valley is another manufacturer.
"They're also making some components for the brace. And the bags and sleeves are manufactured us there."
Those bags and sleeves are also Robertson's wife's idea. She thought the braces needed something reusable, breathable and washable.
"It protects the other laundry and protects the brace from getting tangled," said Robertson. "And at least in your son's football duffel bag, the braces won't have to smell."
And the name Badger Braces?
"This is an homage to my high school mascot, the Bonners Ferry Badgers," laughed Robertson.
A few high schools are using the braces for their athletes, but Robertson believes more teams should be using them. He believes physicians should be putting them on patients, too.
"You're going to wear something home from the that day and I'd like it to be a Badger Brace, rather than one of those boots and a set of crutches."
Badger Braces is primed for slow and steady growth, but Robertson realizes, "This has the potential to really explode, which is frightening."
It's a possibility this small company, in a small town, is bracing for.
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