Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City inventor dials up relief for tennis elbow

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A local physiotherapist is confident his clients and others across North America will spend more pain-free time on the tennis court and golf course this summer.

Brad Ross, owner of Assiniboine Physiotherapy, has developed a unique arm brace to combat tennis elbow and golf elbow and has just signed distribution deals with a pair of firms to sell them on both sides of the border.

The product, called the PTDial, is different from traditional arm braces in that it doesn't need to be wrapped (and often rewrapped) tightly to be effective. Instead, users can adjust the amount of pressure on the inflamed muscles by turning a dial.

Ross, a physiotherapist for the past 23 years, said he found patients weren't satisfied with the current selection of elbow braces on the market. They either worked but were uncomfortable because they had to be pulled so tightly or they didn't work because they were worn loosely.

His company of the same name was incubated by Biomedical Commercialization Canada, a not-for-profit organization funded by the federal and provincial governments which helps take innovative product ideas to market.

Marshall Ring, BCC's Winnipeg-based executive director, said it assesses the strengths and weaknesses of a start-up company and its management and matches it up with local experts to fill the skills gap. Ross was hooked up with Ken Bicknell, former vice-president of ENSIS Growth Fund, who spearheaded PTDial's marketing efforts.

The company will formally announce its distribution partnerships with Sammons Preston in the U.S. and OrthoCanada in Canada at an event Thursday afternoon. Ross said he is also in the process of patenting the product in 32 countries.

Ring said recent market research showed the number of tennis and golf elbow sufferers grows each year. Between three million to 10 million people are diagnosed with the affliction annually in North America but less than one million of them choose to buy a brace.

"We've taken a company that wasn't making great progress to one that is now ready to take on the world. (Ross) had 8,000 units sitting in his garage and nowhere to sell it. Now he sits around the table with a proven management team," he said, noting BCC also sits on the boards of the companies it helps get off the ground. Paul Bouchard, a medical consultant with Innovative Medical Supplies, which has two retail outlets in Winnipeg and one in Brandon, said even as a premium product, the PTDial moves quickly off the shelves. He said it isn't restricted to sporting uses, either. "This product is very cool. I haven't seen anything like it out there. With other braces, you've got to unstrap and readjust. If you were a mechanic under a car, you could just reach over with your other hand and adjust the dial. There are definitely some benefits to it," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2009 A7

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