Originally published in The AnkleLab, February 2023
Please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story:
I am a certified athletic trainer with over 30 years of experience. I have been at the University of Notre Dame since 1990 and have been working with the football program since 1995.
What type of product, service or creative product do you provide?
I designed and created an ankle brace that can be worn over a patient’s shoe. Initially, the brace was used strictly as a football, in-game ankle appliance that could allow a player to return to the game safely and with improved ankle stability. The name of the brace is the TayCo External Ankle Brace. I first used it in a Notre Dame Football game in 2010 with great success. Today, it is common for us to have several players wearing a TayCo Ankle Brace in every game. Eventually, I filed and received a provisional patent. Dr. Fred Ferlic (a retired ND team orthopedic surgeon), his son Gavin Ferlic and myself created a start-up company with the TayCo Brace. We now own and operate TayCo Inc. employing nine full time employees and selling TayCo Braces nationwide. The name TayCo came from my oldest daughter TAYlor, my youngest daughter COurtney and my wife COlleen.
Were there any obstacles or barriers you encountered on your journey developing your product? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
The task of applying for and getting approved for even a provisional patent is extremely daunting. With the assistance of the IDEA Center at Notre Dame, their staff and resources it came to fruition. It would eventually take over six years to get approval for a full utility patent.
A local orthotist was instrumental in the design of the TayCo as well as manufacturing them. However, early in the process each brace was made by hand. This time consuming and expensive process was eventually overcome when we were able to move to injection molding manufacturing methods.
The current hurdle is persuading physicians to utilize the TayCo Brace. Getting physicians to change from a walking boot to a new appliance takes time. The biggest asset we have at overcoming that mindset is getting the TayCo Brace on patients and getting their positive feedback to influence the physicians. Obtaining PDAC approval, billable insurance codes and current and future studies that show the tremendous benefits of the TayCo have also opened many doors and opportunities.
How does your product contribute to the healthcare industry? More specifically, the athletic training and sports medicine community?
The Athletic TayCo Brace is still very popular and being used more and more at all levels of athletics from high school to professional. Football is the most common sport, but we have had success stories involving baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, golf and tennis. Athletes can wear the TayCo as a recovery appliance instead of the gait altering walking boot as well as return to play and competition brace.
It is the newest version of TayCo, The XAB that is designed for non-athletic use that has become the most popular. The TayCo XAB has tremendous diversity in that it can be an excellent brace for post-op ankle repairs, acute ankle sprains, chronic ankle instability, arthritic ankle joints and even peripheral neuropathies. The over-the-shoe design is proving very beneficial in worker compensation cases as well. The walking boot is not allowed in many work environments but with the TayCo fitting over the hard toed work boot, they can return sooner to work settings and other jobs that require protective footwear.
We are also in the early stages of engaging with the United States Military. Already the United States Air Force is utilizing the TayCo as both an injury recovery appliance and a protective brace for paratrooper training. Also in the works is a potential engagement with the Veterans Administration as a brace to aid in the healthcare of veterans.
What do you think makes your product stand out or sets you apart from the others?
Several key components make TayCo unique and superior to other devices. First, the TayCo is worn over the patient’s own shoe making it easy to apply. It provides excellent ankle support and protected joint articulation and eliminates an abnormal gait pattern that walking boots cause. The ability to wear one’s own shoe with the TayCo also allows the patient to wear their orthotic (when applicable). The TayCo is especially beneficial to the elderly patients who are unable to comfortably and safely use a walking boot due to the altered gait pattern and leg length discrepancy.
What are you most proud of and what are the main things you want potential clients, followers, fans, colleagues and/or patients to know about you, your brand and/or your work?
The evolution of the TayCo and how many people of every walk of life that it can benefit is what I am most proud of. What started out simply as a brace to help football players has matriculated to an appliance that is changing people’s lives. To see someone’s quality of life improve by being able to walk pain free or without assistance thanks to the TayCo is easily the most rewarding aspect. We have countless stories of senior citizens, veterans and Guillain-Barre patients just to name a few that are able to resume normal activities of daily living by using the TayCo.
If you could go back, would you choose the same profession, specialty, etc. Why or why not?
Absolutely without a doubt. The satisfaction of helping someone overcome a physical injury or condition is still extremely gratifying and heartwarming.
Other than training/knowledge/experience, what do you think is the most helpful for succeeding in your field?
A sincere desire to assist those in need both physically and mentally. It is crucial to develop trusting relationships with your patients. A good mantra to remember is “the patient doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”