Back on the Ice: Innovative Socket Design Gets Hand Amputee Playing Hockey Again
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA – After nearly 30 years away from his passion, Andrew Carter has returned to ice hockey. The long-absence from the game wasn’t self-imposed for the 48-year-old. “I grew up playing on the street and organized leagues on ice until I was 14 when I lost my hand and wrist in an electrical accident,” he said.
Fast forward from 1984 to 2013 and Carter found a way to get back on the ice through a prosthetic attachment that enables him to control the hockey stick, coupled with aninnovative socket system that keeps his prosthesis not only snug and secure, but radically alters the way he plays his game — the HiFi™ Interface System created by Randall Alley, CEO and chief prosthetist of biodesigns inc., a prosthetic clinic and R&D facility.
“I was physically active all my life but I didn’t realize there were prosthetics that would stay on and perform in the way that the HiFi system does and also the hockey specific attachment made by Bob Rodocy from TRS Inc.,” Carter said. It was Radocy, who is also an arm amputee, who referred Carter to Alley, who is known for his extensive experience in upper-limb prosthetics and his commitment to superior biomechanics. Alley previously fit Radocy in a HiFi socket he uses for swimming and scuba. With the HiFi, Carter was able to return to the ice for the first time since he was a teenager. “The HiFi makes me a much better player. It enables me to go out there and be competitive because of the way it perfectly captures every motion of my arm,” Carter said.
Unlike most upper-extremity prostheses for heavy physical activity, this one does not have a series of straps and shoulder harnesses to hold it on. The four internal compression areas of the socket control the shaft of the underlying bone by gently displacing some soft tissue out of the way, causing the remaining soft tissue surrounding the bone to become denser.
“At a glance, it might look uncomfortable,” Carter said, “but it actually isn’t. There is virtually no movement inside the actual prosthesis. The usual give and take of soft tissue movements inside a normal prosthetic shell is completely gone, and that translates into a substantial increase in both power and accuracy. This is great for me and probably not so good for opposing goaltenders.”
Carter’s return to the ice came after months of relearning how to stick handle, pass and shoot, practicing on dry land. “What the HiFi and TRS’s terminal device enabled me to do is to be able to get back out there and play. I don’t really think of it as a prosthesis; it’s an extension of me,” he said.
Alley has heard this many times before from his patients. “Our patients report numerous benefits from our socket design including increased comfort, range of motion, feedback, proprioception, and a feeling of being connected to their prostheses. Often times they state they forget they are wearing a prosthesis because it feels like a part of them, not something that is externally attached to them,” Alley said. “Think about that for a moment, forgetting you’re wearing a heavy arm or leg system because it’s mimics so perfectly your every move. It simply doesn’t happen with any other socket system.”
Carter joined the Ice Angeles 8-Bits adult hockey team in 2014 and was instrumental as the 8-Bits swept the finals to become league champions in 2017.
“Hockey has been my favorite sport for a long time so it’s been a really big deal for me to come back and play on the team and be in the locker room with my teammates,” he said.
Besides hockey playing, Carter is a regular at the gym, but found difficulty in holding weights and doing upper body exercises.
“It’s very difficult with one hand to load your body evenly and do a great deal of upper body exercises, so I invented a device called the Carter Cuff to help me and other amputees or persons whose hand function is temporarily or permanently impaired.
The Carter Cuff is an armband, which includes a number of reinforced D-Rings providing connection to exercise machines and free weights. An optional shoulder harness can be attached to the armband for additional stability.
It allows the user with a disability to perform numerous exercises that would otherwise by impossible. The user can row, press, pull down, press down, curl, chop and perform suspension, barbell, dumbbell and kettle bell work, all while loading the body evenly.
Carter has partnered with San Francisco State University’s Department of Kinesiology to engage in clinical testing of the device, necessary for proving its effectiveness and subsequent marketing to the O&P (orthotic and prosthetic) community.
“We’ve found that motivated people, especially recent amputees, take to it quickly because it’s a thing they can use to get back to where they were before. It’s also got a rugged strong look and that goes well with the gym rat crowd,” he said.
In addition to heading his own company, Carter Medical Devices, he also is a full-time intellectual property and music affairs attorney at a major motion picture studio in Los Angeles. He also has participated in O&P trade shows and symposiums, demonstrating the Carter Cuff, the HiFi, and his bionic hand.
“It’s become this really special second life that I couldn’t envision. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can do this. I’m lucky that I got referred to Randy by Bob. I got VIP treatment from the day I walked in there. Randy has been nothing but amazing!”