Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis suited up with a custom-printed arm brace to protect a nasty fracture during last night’s big game.

Injured Football Player Wears 3D-printed Brace in Super Bowl

Photo: Getty Images

Davis broke his arm in the game leading up to the Super Bowl, but he was’t about to let that stop him from playing in the big game last night. With the support of a 3D-printed brace he was ready to take on the tackles and last night he survived five of them.

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Despite breaking his arm just two weeks ago and also having had surgery to have a metal plate and 12 screws inserted, it seems like a far-fetched miracle that he was able to play.

Stratasys printers

Whiteclouds’s line of 3-D printers. PHOTO BY WHITECLOUDS

3D-printing company Whiteclouds developed and printed the brace to protect his arm on one of their Stsratasys Connex printers. Whiteclouds doesn’t make medical devices, per se. It’s the world’s largest full-color 3-D printing facility, and can print just about anything you can imagine. Its 53 employees know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to 3-D printing, but this was a new one.

They didn’t have time to prototype and iterate, or to stress-test their designs. They didn’t have time to do anything beyond make something.

3D printed brace

Using a hastily-made 3-D scan of Davis’ arm, and working through a company called 3-D Elite, the Whiteclouds crew set to work designing a brace everyone thought might work. It had to be breathable enough to be comfortable to wear, and as light as possible. If they could make it good-looking, that would be a bonus, but protecting his arm and the incision was critical. Whiteclouds had to talk to one of the orthopedic guys to make sure it didn’t slide down Davis’ arm when he lifted it, that it had enough padding, and that it didn’t run afoul of the NFL’s extremely specific rules about casts and braces.

Surviving last’s night tough game shows the toughness of the Polyjet material that was used to make the brace. This could mark the beginning of 3D-printed equipment being used more widely to help sports professionals hit the field faster after injuries.

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