June 6, 2000   

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CP Story

'Naturally mechanical' inventor unveils hands-free crutch

MANSFIELD, Ont. (CP) - A new device that will make life easier for people who have a broken foot or sprained ankle was unveiled Monday by its Canadian inventor.

In these types of injuries, weight must be kept off the lower leg, below the knee, while broken feet and ankles repair. Until Monday, crutches were the only method available for getting around.

Lance Matthews, who lives on a farm near Mansfield, about 100 kilometres north of Toronto, invented what he's calling the iWALKFree crutch a few years back, after falling from his barn and breaking a leg.

After three days on crutches the 43-year-old organic farmer couldn't take it any more. He went down to his workshop and put together the forerunner of iWALKFree - a vertical cedar strut with a shelf on it, held up by a leg.

He put his knee on the shelf and walked away.

Mission accomplished - and done in only 25 minutes.

"Like I mean, I was better with a couple of pieces of Velcro and cedar, he said."

Matthews, who describes himself as "just naturally mechanical, said the first one was so good, it allowed him to travel all over North America, including the Grand Canyon, without difficulty

The device allowed him to bear his weight through the flexed knee, resulting in no weight being placed on his ankle, tibia or foot - exactly what the doctor ordered, and no crutches.

His doctors and others at Sunnybrook were so impressed that they initiated a clinical trial on the device.

Today's device, which sells for $349, is almost identical to the wooden one made in his basement, except it's not made of wood.

"It's totally, completely going to change the world for non-weight-bearing, lower-leg injuries," he said.

Among other things, the new device will give new hope to people whose lower leg has been amputated.

The Canadian Press, 2000

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