Rick is an Inventor, too!

While I was skiing with my young son on a green slope in Colorado, I fell backward, my skis didn’t release, and in the process, I tore my ACL. At the doctor’s office, I was told there were 1000 ACL injuries reported in Aspen alone the previous year. From this, it has been estimated that there are 10,000 such ski injuries in Colorado each year, and 50,000 injuries across the world each year.

$20,000 dollars worth of surgery later, I am still never going to be the athlete I was before the accident. I have subsequently resolved to be part of a solution to this particular ski problem.

The last great improvement to skiing has been made. With my patent-pending bailout system, skiers will finally have a human controlled mechanism to get out of their skis as soon as they feel it necessary. The Invention – How It Works

There are three basic components to our system. First, the rear binding is mounted in a fundamentally different manner. I am currently patenting the first track-mounted binding, where the entire rear binding member is mounted on a sliding track.

Attached to this sliding binding is a spring loaded ejection system, that, when triggered, slides the rear binding back one inch, effectively changing a size 10 binding to a size 15. This instant resizing allows the skier to bail out of his skis, freeing his or her legs from the leg-breaking skis.

This bailout mechanism is controlled by the last part of our invention, a radio-controlled, ski pole mounted trigger that signals the spring to unload and release the binding. This device is similar, both in operation and in size, to a common automobile door opener.

Where the Invention Stands Today

There have already been two working prototypes created, the simple spring release system, as well as a gas-charged prototype, which uses compressed carbon dioxide to hold the spring in place. Both work amazingly well. The invention is also going through the patent process, and three patent searches have shown it to be an extremely unique invention.

Background of the invention: It is estimated that over 10,000 crippling knee injuries occur each ski season in Colorado, U.S.A., alone. Extrapolating worldwide there might be over 50,000 knee injuries each ski season worldwide. Great advances have been made in downhill ski bindings to automatically release during violent forward falls. Several problems exist with the best downhill ski bindings. One problem is the failure to enable the user to quickly adjust his release settings to variable snow conditions. Hard snow, ice and/or steep conditions require a higher release pressure for a safety release because greater forces are required from the boot to the ski in order to maintain control. Powder or moderately steep conditions require lower release settings because less pressure is needed from the boot to the ski to control the ski. No known system addresses this problem. Presently skiers need to carry a screwdriver and guess what release code number on the bindings mean, then take out a screwdriver in freezing conditions, and attempt to torque two or more screws on each binding to the same (higher or lower) settings. This is a job for professionals only, certainly not the average skier. The present invention addresses this problem with an easy-to-use lever on the toe and the heel piece of a modern downhill ski binding. The ski shop adjusts the binding for the skier’s weight and ability as is currently the practice. However, a lever is labeled “ice/steep; medium; powder/gentle” to enable on-hill adjustment of the release settings by the skier as conditions change. This feature should reduce knee and related injuries. A second and more serious problem is the slow, twisting backward fall. Most anterior crucial ligament (ACL) injuries occur with this type of fall. Expert skiers teaching children fall during a lesson and tear their ACL. A damaged ACL can be treated with a modern, complex, and expensive surgery called a patella tendon graft replacement for the ACL. Other body parts such as the hamstring tendon can also be used to replace the damaged ACL. Thus, two surgeries are required. First, a body part such as the patella tendon is harvested. Second, the damaged ACL is removed and replaced with the harvested body part. A good result requires six months of the replacement ACL to gain strength and function like the original ACL. About a year’s physical therapy is required to regain maximum use of the leg. Two wounds must heel, without infection. Stiffness in the knee joint sometimes leads to loss of full range of motion. Atrophy of the leg muscles from the downtime of surgery adds stress to the already weakened knee. Additional ACL and related injuries do occur. The average cost of one procedure with therapy is about $15,000.00.All this misery can stem from one careless fall backward while standing in the ski line. Following your child at 3 mph can lead to a slow backward fall and a crippling ACL injury. Nobody has invented a working solution to this one worst injury so frequently caused by a careless moment on downhill skis. One new attempt to solve this problem is the Lange® boot rearward pivot ankle seventh of the boot. A pre-set backward force will release the ankle segment of the boot rearward. However, the boot is still locked into the ski binding. Only twelve pounds of twisting torque on the foot is required to tear an ACL. The Lange® boot solution does not address the release of rotational force on the knee. It addresses the release of a rearward force by the boot on the back of the skier’s calf. It is unknown if this system will reduce ACL injuries. A large portion (perhaps half) of all ACL injuries occur at slow speeds falling backward. Therefore, a couple of seconds of reaction time exists for a trained skier (either novice or expert) to push an emergency release button on his ski pole handle and totally eject from his skis. By the time the skier hits the ground, he’s out of his skis without exerting any rotational torque to his knees. Properly trained skiers using the present invention can reduce the risk of ACL injury by a large percent, perhaps even half. This could mean 25,000 fewer worldwide ACL injuries a year, and a much safer sport overall. Other uses for this emergency release system (also called a bail out™ system) include an easy release for beginners so they can spend less time learning to stand up and more time skiing. Upside down skiers in a tree hole can quickly release and quickly get out of a dangerous situation. The basic principle of the present invention is to mount the heel and/or toe release segment of a ski binding on a short track. Pushing the release button energizes a stored force on the ski to move the heel and/or toe binding along the track to a position larger than the ski boot. The result is a size 10 boot in a size 12 binding. The skier is instantly free of his skis. To remount the skier resets his binding to the loaded and properly sized position, steps in, and skis as usual.

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