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Snowmobile accident victim creates new orthopedic brace—and global business venture

François Côté has struggled with foot drop ever since a snowmobiling accident. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, he created a brace that has gotten him back on his feet.

Original article (French only) : Radio-Canada

Quebec City resident François Côté’s life was turned upside down in 2001. A snowmobile accident left him with foot drop, a condition that prevents him from lifting his left foot and toes properly.

“Sometimes the condition heals on its own. Mine won’t because the nerve got completely torn with the dislocated knees and fractures,” said Mr. Côté, a former designer at Ocean Group. “There were even pieces missing.”

After two years of rehabilitation, he started looking for a brace that would allow him to get back to his active lifestyle, but came up empty handed—they were all uncomfortable.

“There was this really hard plastic plate inside the shoe that went right up the leg. The brackets were really stiff and in direct contact with the skin. You couldn’t do any intense exercise with that thing in your shoe. You had to walk like a robot,” said Mr. Côté on the local CBC morning show.

A business is born

So he started building prototypes in his garage.

Within four years, he had developed a brace that was comfortable for sports.

I was trying to make something functional. It didn’t look great, but it worked like a charm.

François Côté

That’s how Turbomed, the company founded by Mr. Côté and business partner Stéphane Savard, got started. The brace goes outside the shoe and is fully flexible. The wearer has full motor function in their foot and can bend their ankle. Plus, the other muscles don’t atrophy.

According to the designer, the look of the brace has also improved over time.

The brace allows him to run, hike, ski, and bike. François Côté has run some 15 marathons since his accident.

Doing business around the world

The Quebec City-based company currently has five employees and sells around 8,000 braces per year.

“Each year, hundreds of thousands of foot drop braces are sold around the world,” said Mr. Côté, explaining the potential market for his product.

Foot drop can have a variety of causes, including cardiovascular events, accidents, and multiple sclerosis.

With files from Mireille Roberge