Woodcast is a lightweight biodegradable material made from wood and biopolymers, originally developed to replace the plaster casts traditionally used in hospitals. The material, invented by the Finnish high-tech company Onbone, proved to be so versatile that it is now used in a wide array of usage areas, one of them being sports.
“Only a hairdryer or heat gun is needed to shape the splint so that it fits perfectly, and optimally supports the injured area or the area that needs support for some other reason. As splints made of Woodcast are light and compact, they can always be at hand for the medical team, no matter where in the world the team is competing or training. The material can also easily be removed or reshaped simply by warming it up again.” – Jimmy Takki, CEO of Onbone.
Injuries of varying degrees happen all the time in sports. Many of them can be treated on site simply with supports of different kinds. The trouble has been that these supports are rigid, often uncomfortable and not very eco-friendly. Woodcast offers an easy-to-use method to make supports that are comfortable to use and so thin that they fit also in shoes, for instance.
Reduced environmental impact
To speed up the development of sporting solutions using Woodcast, Onbone has joined forces with the Finnish Olympic Committee and its team of athletes, doctors, physiotherapists and coaches.
Animals can also gain from Woodcast as a splinting material, since it is non-toxic and therefore not harmful to gnawn on.
Onbone has already developed a new type of ankle and wrist braces, but there is a vast array of other sporting aids that can be done with the material.
“Woodcast is not only about immobilizing and shielding broken bones or twisted fingers, but also about preventing damages. Many injuries can be prevented if the athletes use individually shaped, lightweight supports of just the right stiffness. There are many competing products of this kind, but unlike Woodcast, very few of them can be formed for an exact fit or have such a large scale of different areas of use. Being made from wood and biopolymers, Woodcast is also environmentally sound. – Jimmy Takki, CEO of Onbone.
“To improve my swimming technique, I have recently received a laser-cut pair of swim paddles made from Woodcast”, says Kerkko Visuri, Chief Digital Officer at Onbone. “The material is easy to shape so that the paddles exactly fit my hands.”
Put to test at the Olympics
The fact that Woodcast can be used also in water, makes it interesting in many outdoor disciplines. It is also a reason to why the Finnish Olympic Committee is now a key partner to Onbone regarding product development of new sporting aids.
“This co-operation ensures that the product development will cover a broad scale of needs in different disciplines”, Takki says. “Our splints and heaters will also be at the Finnish team’s disposal in the next Olympics in Tokyo and Beijing.”
Woodcast used as a regular cast: As Woodcast is a natural and breathing material, the risk for irritated skin or eczema is minimized.
According to the Olympic Committee, the co-operation with Onbone is all about improving the safety of all athletes.
“We support everything that can prevent sports injuries and that can help in treating them rapidly if they occur”, says Ville Köngäs, Marketing Manager at the Finnish Olympic Committee. “Onbone has just the right expertise, products and technology for this purpose. Woodcast is important to us also, because we want to reduce the environmental impact of sport.”
Onbone Oy was formed in 2008 by two researchers at the University of Helsinki. Two years later Woodcast Splint made its debut in the operating theatres in Finland. The material is a clean blend of wood and biodegradable polymers that can be given different strengths and other parameters to suite different applications. Since 2010, the product range has expanded to cover many aspects of immobilization, stabilization and protection not only in health care, but also in other areas like sports and veterinary medicine.