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Injured football player may wear 3D-printed brace in Super Bowl

Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis could suit up with a custom-printed arm brace to protect a nasty fracture during the biggest game of his life.

Thomas Davis wears a 3D-printed brace during practice for the Super Bowl.

Carolina Panthers

National Football League player Thomas Davis had both a triumphant and a devastating game on January 24. His Carolina Panthers dominated the Arizona Cardinals and earned a trip to the Super Bowl, but at the expense of a broken right forearm for Davis.

Davis may be carrying some extra equipment with him onto the field if he plays in Super Bowl 50 as he's determined to. His arm has a metal plate and 12 screws keeping it together. He also has a 3D-printed arm brace that was made to protect the injury during the game.

3D printing company Whiteclouds is the brain behind the brace. It used a 3D scan of Davis' arm to design a shock-absorbing brace made from a blend of plastic and rubber-like materials. Holes keep the weight down and improve breathability.

The design and engineering phase took place in just 8 hours. The actual print took 30 hours on a Stratasys Connex industrial-strength 3D printer. Whiteclouds shipped the brace in time for Davis to test it during practices in the week leading up to the big game this Sunday.

Scott Perone of 3D Elite, a manufacturer of 3D-printed braces and casts for athletes, collaborated with Whiteclouds on the project. "Thomas Davis is already the 'bionic man' in our book," Perone said in a release. "This personalized 3D brace lined with Poron XRD makes him a bit more indestructible." Poron XRD is a soft, flexible material designed to absorb shocks and protect from impacts.

The 3D-printed brace wasn't the only option in the running to protect Davis' arm, but it was the one the player chose over three other regular braces. He picked it for its toughness. According to statements made during media night on Monday, he "took every opportunity to hit it on something."

Products created through 3D printing are becoming more common on the medical scene. We've seen everything from 3D-printed casts to a 3D-printed sternum and ribs designed for a cancer patient.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera is open to letting Davis play in the Super Bowl, even with the fracture still healing. "When the doctors say he's 100 percent, I'll go with it," Rivera said. According to Whiteclouds, Davis could then become the first NFL player to wear a 3D-printed piece of equipment in a game.

A rendering of the Davis's 3D-printed brace complete with his uniform number.