University develops brace to help alumnus cycle again

A cyclist who lost the movement of his arm after being in a head-on collision with a car has been helped to ride again thanks to his former university.

Richard Kershaw, 42, has been given a bespoke cycling brace which lets him hold the handlebars and adjust his arm position while riding after working with Nottingham Trent University student Olivia Killeya.

Previous braces had only allowed Richard to adjust his position when static on his bike, meaning he had to stop in order to change arm position.

But the new design - named the Ø-Brace after Richard’s cycling club, ØVB, in West Bridgford, Notts - can be adjusted in increments while Richard cycles along.

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The Ø-Brace

The brace allows Richard to hold the handle bars steady with his injured arm and adjust it with his other hand, allowing him to change body position so he can become more aerodynamic when required.

A spring slider gear mechanism allows the brace to be adjusted by 10 degrees at a time. Made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a lightweight and tough plastic, the brace is also lined with neoprene foam for comfortable padding and grip.

Richard, of Wenlock Drive in West Bridgford, who graduated from NTU with an MSc in Geotechnical Engineering in 2007, said: “The new brace is great. From the first moment I tried it on, it was really comfortable to wear which is a big improvement."

“Having something made specifically for me makes a big difference, great to work with NTU again too. I can’t wait to use it out on the road.”

Richard lost the movement of his right arm when nerves were disconnected from his spine in the collision. To regain some of that movement, surgeons performed a pioneering operation to rewire nerves from the intercostal muscles to his bicep.

When Richard breathes in, he can make his bicep contract. Over time and through physiotherapy, his brain will learn that the relocated nerve now controls the bicep and will be able to move it independently, without the need to breathe at the same time.

The collision happened in 2017 in the Vale of Belvoir when Richard was riding in a group. Three of his friends were injured, though Richard suffered the most injuries, comprising of multiple broken vertebrae, a teared liver, a head injury and more.

Richard was taken to hospital by air ambulance and spent seven weeks there – two of which were in an induced coma - and has undergone ten operations. He also spent three days on a ventilator after developing pneumonia.

Two weeks after coming out of hospital Richard rode a Wattbike in his friend’s garage and nine months later rode at the velodrome in Derby on a normal road bike.

“The hospital staff have been amazing. I owe my life to the air ambulance. I want to do a charity ride for them,” says Richard.

“I owe my life to Sally and John, who are both medically trained and saved me by the side of the road before the air ambulance arrived. They’re both now my friends.

“My arm will never be the same, but if I get some movement again, it would be nice to shake hands using my right rather than my left.”

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Olivia Killeya, BSc Product Design

The Ø-Brace will go on public display at New Designers in London from 2 to 6 July.

BSc Product Design student Olivia, 22, from Surrey, said: “What Richard has been through amazes me. His recovery is inspiring. I’ve loved working on this project.

“The key thing was to design something which Richard can adjust while cycling. There’s not a lot of products available for people with upper body injuries.

“User-centred design is an area I’ve always wanted to get into. I am proud to have helped.”

  • Notes for editors

    * Press enquiries please contact Chris Birkle, press officer, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 2310, or via email, or Dave Rogers, media relations manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8782, or via email

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students. NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    The university has been rated Gold in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework – the highest ranking available.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. A total of 82% of its graduates go on to graduate entry employment or graduate entry education or training within six months of leaving. Student satisfaction is high: NTU achieved an 88% satisfaction score in the 2018 National Student Survey.

    NTU is also one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly universities, containing some of the sector’s most inspiring and efficient award-winning buildings.

    NTU is home to world-class research, and won The Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 – the highest national honour for a UK university. It recognised the University’s pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage; enable safer production of powdered infant formula; and combat food fraud.

University develops brace to help alumnus cycle again

Published on 9 July 2019
  • Category: Press office

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