New Research Highlights Disruptive Potential of 3D Printing on the Production and Customization of Sports Equipment for People with Disabilities

Submitted By: Sports and Social Change

Detailed industry analysis and recommendations aim to reduce the high cost of adaptive sports equipment and increase sports participation for people with physical disabilities.

June 16, 2015, Los Angeles, CA – Sports and Social Change, in collaboration with the Anderson Strategy Group and UCLA Anderson School of Management, today released the results of a 14-week research project that explored business solutions to address the high cost of adaptive sports equipment (i.e. - sports wheelchairs and prosthetics) and the potential impact of 3D printing on the design, development and manufacturing process. The goal of the study was to identify ways to create greater access to sports equipment and increase sports participation for people with disabilities.

The study reported a number of key observations:

  • The cost of obtaining sports equipment is the biggest addressable global challenge for people with disabilities in attempting to gain access to adaptive sports.
  • For amputees, continued improvements in flexibility and strength of polymer materials can allow Orthotic and Prosthetic practitioners to 3D Print an entire prosthetic socket, significantly reducing the cost and production time of customization and fitting for adaptive sports prosthetics.
  • An emerging trend towards creating an open source 3D printing ecosystem could dramatically boost adoption and usher in innovation in adaptive sports equipment.

The high cost of adaptive sports equipment poses a significant barrier to entry for people with disabilities that want to participate in sports programs. The vast majority of adaptive sports programs operate as nonprofit organizations or NGOs, with limited financial resources to purchase and maintain the necessary equipment. In addition, many pieces of adaptive sports equipment need to be customized to fit the physical needs of each individual athlete, further increasing the cost. People with disabilities who are interested in purchasing their own adaptive sports equipment commonly absorb these costs themselves, as insurance or medical programs rarely cover these items.

The primary adaptive sports equipment profiled in this study included wheelchairs for basketball, tennis and racing, mono/sit-skis, handcycles and a range of active-use prosthetics. Both cost and consumer analyses were conducted, focusing on adaptive sports equipment manufacturers, 3D printing companies, athletes with physical disabilities (such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, spinal cord injury, spina bifida, amputee, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis) and nonprofit adaptive sports organizations.

The project was developed and led by Sports and Social Change, a sports marketing consultancy with a focus on nonprofit, mission driven and cause related programming in the global sports community. Financial support was provided by UCLA Anderson Center for Global Management and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

The study was authored by the Anderson Strategy Group, a team of six UCLA Anderson School of Management students: Jane Chynoweth, UCLA Anderson 2015 (Project Lead); Apurv Awasthi, UCLA Anderson 2016; George Buckley, UCLA Anderson 2016; Arthur Hu, UCLA Anderson 2016; Danielle Koo, UCLA Anderson 2016; Nicholas Salameh, UCLA Anderson 2016.

The Anderson Strategy Group conducted over 1,000 hours of research, and interviewed more than 85 stakeholders across 21 countries. Research partners and primary contributors included: International Paralympic Committee / Agitos Foundation, Rio 2016 Paralympic Integration Committee, US Paralympics, Mpower Sports and Recreation, UCLA Adaptive Recreation, Angel City Games, Team Ezra, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Triumph Foundation, DisAbility Sports Festival, Motivation UK, National Ability Center, Hanger Prosthetics, Ossur, Hands On Concepts, Eezitec, Not Impossible Labs, and Mountain Orthotic & Prosthetic Services.

Findings and recommendations from this study will be presented Friday, June 19th, 2015 at the Angel City Games, a multi-sport competition for people with physical disabilities being held at Drake Stadium on the UCLA campus. Angel City Games is the first competitive Track & Field event for youth and adults with physical disabilities to be held at UCLA, and will feature sprint, distance and field events for elite-level athletes as well as recreational and first-time participants. Attendance is free and open to the public.

For more information about this study or for details on attending the event on Friday, June 19th at UCLA, please contact Howard Brodwin This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or 1-323-841-2267.


About Sports and Social Change
Sports and Social Change is a sports marketing consultancy focusing on cause marketing, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and social enterprise development in sports business, offering a range of strategic marketing services to brands, teams, leagues, athletes, nonprofits, foundations and affiliated businesses in sports. Uniquely positioned in the sports business community, the company channels the industrys talent and resources to address critical social issues through innovative cause marketing campaigns, corporate social responsibility initiatives, brand & nonprofit partnerships, and empowerment on social enterprise models in sports business. To further grow the field of sport and development, Sports and Social Change highlights best practices, educates nonprofit organizations, and provides access to information, resources and opportunities for those seeking connections with social change and cause-related organizations that utilize sports as the primary vehicle to empower change.

About Anderson Strategy Group
Anderson Strategy Group (ASG) is a non-profit, student-run organization at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, dedicated to developing strategic solutions to critical business problems while developing consulting skills in the Anderson Community. ASG is a highly selective organization comprised of talented and driven Anderson students who are dedicated to a career in consulting. Each ASG project is staffed by a partner, 5 consultants and UCLA Anderson faculty advisor Derek Alderton, a former McKinsey Partner. Since its founding in 2009, ASG has delivered results for more than 20 organizations in Southern California in areas such as market entry strategy, operations improvement and marketing strategy.

Tags: Disability Issues, Adaptive Sports, Los Angeles, Track and Field, Wheelchair Basketball, 3D Printing, Prosthetics, Challenged Athletes Foundation, UCLA Anderson Center for Global Management

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