A Better Fix for Soldier Bones

Problem: Often soldiers, especially paratroopers, break their bones completely across (often called a "guillotine" break).  These breaks often have tiny bone fragments that cannot be pieced together.  Resetting the bone to grow back properly with a cast or plates and screws is inadequate.  And spending the rest of one's life with an imperfect leg can be not only a great inconvenience but also lead to reduced mobilities that lead to earlier mortality.

Solution: The Wright State University (WSU) School of Medicine, Department of Orthopedics at Miami Valley Hospital is evaluating a new system to separate and orient broken bones properly, requires separating the bones at the proper length and orientation.

The ideal fixator would allow limited axial flexing but no side to side shear motion or rotational torsion.  WSU needed a laboratory with sophisticated mechanical instruments to test the various fixator designs on simulated bones.  Testing was needed for not only initial deflections but also for loosening of screws, etc., after a week of repeated loading.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate Engineering and Design Data Group (AFRL/MLSC) is one of only a few places in the world with the long tenure expertise that could design, set up, and perform such a unique test.


  • Better fixators can relieve the inconvience and bad side effects of an inaccurate bone setting.
  • Not only soldiers, but the general public will benefit from better fixators.
  • High science and long tenured expertise in the Air Force benefits society dramatically in a spin off of military technology.

Current Status:

  • An initial bank of tests accurately determined performance.
  • WSU is working on additional tests of these devices and therefor, possible improvements in design and use of fixators.
If you have any questions about this Technical Assistance Project or are interested in getting more information about Wright Technology Network and technology transfer, please contact Jim Singer (937) 253-0217 or crada@wtn.org.

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