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Notre Dame athletic trainer's brace is revolutionizing sports medicine

Injuries are common in sports, especially football, so when presented with a challenge, Notre Dame athletic trainer Mike Bean got creative. What started as a quick fix on the sideline is now revolutionizing sports medicine not just here in South Bend, but at top programs around the country.

Bean started out as an intern in 1990 and has been a part of the Irish staff for nearly 30 years.

He's worked with a lot of athletes and seen a lot of injuries

"To be able to put a guy safely back out onto the field in a quick manner, that's always the thing in a game day situation is 'how quickly can you get him back?" Bean said.

Ankle injuries are among the top five most common in the sport and according to an NCAA study, football players are nearly 7 times more likely to be injured during a game than in practice.

So Bean started brainstorming and came up with the TayCo brace.

"There was always a lot of braces you could wear that would go inside the shoe. They served a purpose and they worked but generally they weren't very comfortable," Bean said. "You had to go to a bigger size shoe, or you had to modify the shoe you were wearing."

The TayCo brace fits on the outside of the shoe, so the athlete can wear his normal cleat.

How important is 'feel' for an athlete?

"How it fits and how it feels. Athletes are so concerned with their function and rightly so, whether they have the injury or not. So anytime you put a brace on something like they want to know 'Can I still do my job?' And with the makeup of this particular brace, they can still do their job. They're able to put their foot in the ground and plant. It's not rigid like a cast," Bean said.

Bean took his idea to longtime Notre Dame and local orthopedic Doctor Fred Ferlic and the two went to Notre Dame's idea center where the dream became a reality.

Bean introduced the TayCo brace during the 2013 season and countless Irish athletes have worn it since.

"Some of the marquee guys who had some success was Nick Martin, the center here a few years ago and now with the Houston Texans. Nick had an ankle sprain in the game and he came out and said, 'I can't push off, I can't post,'" Bean said. "So, we put it on him, he went back out and he came back after one series and says, 'Hey, that worked great. I can do my job, I can function. It doesn't hurt.' So, that was really one of the landmark cases that we can kind of look back on."

At one point this season the Irish had 7 players using the TayCo brace.

"The high ankle sprain that Cole Kmet had, he was in that brace. I don't think, there's no way that kid plays without that brace," Head Coach Brian Kelly said.

The entire brace is manufactured in South Bend at Midwest Orthotics.

The TayCo brace is now used in all cleated sports at Notre Dame from lacrosse to softball.

It's no longer South Bend's best kept secret. 41 college football programs are using the TayCo brace including Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Michigan - all 5 of the current top 5 teams in the country.

Even opponents of the Irish have bought in like Florida State and Northwestern.

It's not only college teams 7 NFL teams including 5-time Super Bowl Champions - the New England Patriots use the brace.

"The proof is in the performance. We've had really good success with guys liking it. We've even had guys come in and say, 'Hey, can I wear the TayCo today? My ankle's not feeling very good.' So, those are the kind of things that make you feel good," Bean said.

The TayCo brace isn't just for athletes.

It's helping regular people and can even be worn on the outside of steel-toed boots getting skilled laborers back to work too.

Bean said the name TayCo was inspired by his daughters Taylor and Courtney and wife Coleen.

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