Brace Yourself

CLIENT: Bledsoe


SERVICES: Design, Engineering, Prototyping

NZONE: Is it a protective brace or a piece of football equipment? It’s both. For 30 years Bledsoe has been a leading provider of protective and rehabilitation equipment for athletes of all ages. This experience pushed them to tackle a big problem, knee injuries among Down Lineman. A better system could keep these players on the field and out of the training room. But Bledsoe needed a partner to help turn their design impetus into a reality; Priority Designs got called into the huddle.

Game-Changing Innovation

Stepping away from the industry norm, Bledsoe explored new options in the world of prophylactic bracing. The NZONE sets the standard for prevention-only knee protection. Not only does it act as a “seatbelt for the knee”, this football-specific system has integrated thigh and kneepads, which makes for a low profile, efficient system. The unique architecture of the NZONE’s frame protects against the most common knee injury for offensive and defensive linemen, damage to the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL). This injury happens when a player takes a hit to the outside of the knee, as you can imagine, it’s a regular occurrence for linemen. Designed asymmetrically, the frame’s lateral side is longer and more upright to absorb the forces from a hit and protect the knee ligaments, while the medial side is curved for comfort and allows superior mobility.

The Challenge

With a unique and successful structure in place, the next challenge was to integrate a padding system that could handle the hits, but would also be removable for light or non-contact practice sessions. Leveraging advances from protective bracing used in other industries like motocross, a low-profile attachment system was used under each hinge cover to hold the kneepad in place. The thigh pad contains two separate components that are adhered to the front and backsides of the frame. The unique shape of the frame itself insures that the pad will remain sturdy and prevents deformation.

Two perforations allow breathability through the assembled pad while helping to decrease weight. Most braces require 5 straps, the NZONE only needs 4 and the unnecessary 90 degree angle that other medical braces use in their uprights was eliminated, enabling further weight reduction and increasing comfort.

Combining innovation and efficiency, the NZONE system effectively decreases injury for football linemen. It does so with increased comfort and flexibility. Football is a tough sport played by tough people, and while you can’t prevent every injury, the NZONE sets the standard for player protection.

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