Yesterday’s Varsity Athlete – Brad’s Dad’s Knees

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Simply put, my father is an athlete. Now in his 50’s, the sports in which he participates differ greatly from his youth. That isn’t to say he is any less competitive, in fact, I can hardly imagine him being any more so. Competition is in his blood and that will never change.

What has changed, however, are the sports that he can participate in. Gone are the days of competitive hockey, softball, and long distance running. Years of high level sports, training and a few injuries have worn out the cartilage in his left knee; the fall out from this was not limited to competition however.

Like most people who are active and athletic, my father would take any opportunity to get outdoors. For him this was usually in the form of long distance hiking and camping. A few years back he and three friends hiked the long track at Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. The other guys are bugging him to go again but he fears that the knee may not be able to handle it. Blowing a knee up out there means an emergency helicopter ride back home.

Worse than missing trips with friends is the constant pain. He would never say anything unless directly asked but the knees creak everyday on staircases and often make for sleepless nights. Personally, I cannot imagine the frustration this must cause. For a former high level athlete to have to live with pain and take passes on things he used to love, must be infuriating.

He has not given up sports altogether. As mentioned many of his interests have changed. He still plays hockey and has taken up curling, biking and sailing. There are other sports that he wishes he could do more of though. He has had to give up running altogether and is apprehensive to ski despite being a great skier. The worry of the knee giving out and leaving him on crutches is too much of a risk at this point.

Last year, I finally had the opportunity to play hockey with him. It was only two games in a gents league that he played in but it was impossible to miss the smile on his face after both games. He coached us as kids and I recognized the smile from those days long ago. Sadly, due to his ailing knees and a few other injuries, he decided to hang up the skates this season. I fear that he may not be able to teach the game he loves so much to the next generation of our family.

I do product design here at Spring Loaded. There is a reason that what we are trying to do hasn’t been done so far. It is a very difficult task and I have to push myself to my limits everyday. Whenever I find myself cursing at my computer or straining to figure out an engineering problem I use the story above to keep myself motivated and finish the job.

If you’d like to help me in my pursuit of helping people like my father, there’s a very easy way! Spring Loaded is currently a finalist in the BDC Young Entrepreneur Awards and we need you to vote now and every day up to including June 17. Winning this contest will help us bring our cutting-edge knee braces to market more quickly and people like my dad can get excited about playing puck and crackin’ homers once again!

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By Brad MacKeil

Brad MacKeil is a Senior Engineer in Research and Development at Spring Loaded Technology, where he is focused on product development and testing of our knee braces. An outdoor enthusiast, Brad is a runner, snowboarder, biker, sailor and an avid guitar player.

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