Machined Parts Help Paralympian 'Monster' Mike Garner Gold

Posted On February 7, 2020 By Protolabs

“Monster” Mike Schultz’s life-altering accident happened in 2008 while racing snowmobiles on a snowy, frozen course near Ironwood, in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula. A seasoned veteran of racing high-performance snowmobiles, Schultz accelerated to move up in the pack and hit a bump, causing the snowmobile to violently sway from side to side.

“I tried to throttle out of it, but couldn’t save the sled,” Schultz recalled. The machine flung him into the air. He landed feet first. On impact his left knee buckled, hyperextending 180 degrees, “in the wrong direction.” Laying in the snow, bleeding out on the trail, in excruciating pain, “I could see the bottom of my boot laying on my chest.”

As he would find out later, after a nightmarish, two-plus hours’ ride in an ambulance to the nearest trauma hospital in Duluth, Minn., the hyperextension had caused a compound fracture of his tibial plateau, which severed the main artery that supplied blood to his lower leg. The massive trauma and blood loss caused complications and three days later, doctors would amputate his left leg just above the knee.

Yet within months of his surgery, thanks to a prosthetic leg and foot that he designed and built in his garage, “Monster” Mike was back on a snowmobile. Indeed, over the next 12 years, he would go on to become a world-class Paralympic athlete, winning gold and silver medals in the 2018 Paralympic Games, competing in a variety of winter sports, including motocross, snow bike cross, and snowboarding, and winning other gold and silver medals along the way. In fact, he is now a 10-time X Games gold medalist, after returning from the recent Winter X Games 2020 in Aspen, Colorado.

Monster Mike
"Monster" Mike Schultz in recent action, using new prostheses on his left leg, the Moto Knee and Versa2 system.

'Monster' Mike and Protolabs Form Partnership

More recently, in preparation for those Aspen X Games, Schultz, a Minnesota native, and our company, formed a partnership. Together, we created components that are a part of his newest cutting-edge prostheses, the Moto Knee and Versa Foot2 system, which enabled him to attain peak performance. As he recently told Fox News: “My prosthetic equipment directly affects my performance, I would not be capable of what I do without it.”

In those years competing in adaptive sporting events, Schultz said he recognized that many other amputees could benefit from the equipment he was working on. Accordingly, in 2010, he formed BioDapt, a company that designs, manufactures, and distributes high-performance lower limb prosthetic components used for action sports and activities with similar physical demands.

In fact, at the Paralympic Games in 2018 (in South Korea), Schultz said 15 athletes were wearing equipment that he and BioDapt had made for them, and 11 of those won medals. “That’s extremely rewarding,” Schultz explained recently at a meeting with some of our company’s employees. “What a great opportunity to help other athletes.”

Monster Mike
"Monster" Mike Schultz and a version of the Moto Knee and Versa Foot2 system he developed with components from Protolabs.

Machined Aluminum Parts Deliver Solution

For the parts for his Moto Knee and Versa Foot 2 system, Schultz turned to our CNC machining service and to aluminum 6061. Aluminum was chosen because of its lightweight yet durable nature and its high-level of corrosion resistance. The parts we manufactured are actually a combination of redesigned components, intended to be more durable, and completely new designs to allow Schultz to have a more natural range of motion between his knee and foot.

Schultz said he appreciated our “quick and reliable turnaround on quality, machined parts,” both for prototyping and for “on-demand production parts that are ready for competition.”

Case in point: As he told our employee group recently, as he prepared for the Aspen X Games, he was working on the complex, custom linkage system of the prostheses that connected the foot system to the knee.

“I really was working to upgrade to a smaller, lighter weight, system, with a better fit and finish, to gain more flex range with both the ankle and knee, working with a BioDapt designer on last-minute changes on all of this and then sending to Protolabs for quick-turnaround parts.”

The final adjustments were sent to Protolabs on a Saturday night, with the intent of getting the parts machined overnight. And, in fact, the parts were delivered on Sunday morning, enabling Schultz to leave the following day for the X Games. “So, talk about service, that’s pretty incredible,” Schultz told the employee group with a smile.

He also made a point to remind our group of how our industry does indeed touch people. “It’s pretty awesome what I get to do with my company, it helps me help others. I get to compete and also to help other adaptive athletes. That’s what is so great about our industry. With modern manufacturing and design, we get to create these awesome tools.”