Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Oct 6, 2017
by Nathan Hughes  



Open to all with no membership fees, plus bonus time off work, special treatment from friends and family, and a continuous stream of some of the biggest names in action sports signing up, it’s no surprise that the ‘broken riders club’ continues to grow and recruit large volumes of literal fresh blood every year. Unfortunately, joining is also associated with excessive sofa-time, a good deal of staring out of the window with sad eyes, and the accompaniment of unwanted accessories such as crutches and slings, not to mention the lashings of pain and agony. Luckily here in Southern Germany, we have one orthopedic technology and sport protection brand looking to set things right and get you back on track pronto.

Ortema was established over 30 years ago with intentions to become far more than just a logo on a generic product; the company offers the complete package from the very best in medical consultation, surgery and rehabilitation before sending patients out the door with custom-made, protective supports for nigh-on any body part. Turn up as a regular patient or wounded soldier of just about any sport, whether it be skiing, hockey, motocross, and of course MTB and you’ll be well looked after. This year Pinkbike made the trip down to their Markgroeningen HQ, near Stuttgart, for a look at their bike protection line, a ride in the local woods and to get a detailed insight into the creation of their number one selling custom product – the K-Com knee brace in all its carbon-titanium glory.



Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
With a considerable workforce and a large number of departments, sports protection is marked by the fleet of Ortema vehicles lining the spaces outside.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
A showroom and store at the entrance of the building introduce you to some of the more and lesser-known products in the Orthopedic Technology Markgroeningen (OR-TE-MA) range.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Many greats from all kinds of sports disciplines have passed through these doors over the years, not least Germany's own Supercross superstar, Ken Roczen, who runs a pair of the K-Com knee braces under his race pants.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Company CEO, Hartmut Semsch.

bigquotesWhen we started out in 1986, Ortema was only 14 employees, just a fraction of the 250 employed with us today. What we are able to offer has changed enormously since those early days and we are continuing to expand while both specialising and diversifying what we do. The growth of our physiotherapy, ergotherapy, medical fitness and outpatient orthopedic rehab has played a decisive role in what we can do for people and especially athletes. Ortema has become a total provider in the field of medical technology and therapeutics, unparalleled right now in both size and scope in Germany. We are in a good place!Hartmut Semsch


Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Harmut takes us through the many possible issues people develop in their knees...
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
... it turns out there are more than a few ways to bugger the only two you get.

bigquotesWhile we strive to continue in our provision of unrivalled care for performance athletes, injury prevention in the form of sports protection is key in our future and we see a lot of potential areas to apply our expertise in the gravity bicycle market. It's a huge ongoing challenge, but we have a great team with many ideas to implement across the disciplines as well as high-tech materials and production methodsHartmut Semsch

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Head of research and development, Tiberius Winkler, talks us through the ultra-lightweight spine protector found inside the Ortho-max enduro jacket.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Putting in some a little design work on an all-new project...
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
...an elbow guard that doesn't restrict movement or blood-flow. Here's hoping!

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The ONB (Ortema Neck Brace) coming together in one of many workshops.
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Made in Germany.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The ONB prides itself on being low-profile and low-weight and features a horseshoe-shaped support strut at the rear to deflect forces away from the spine. Ortema will even customize it for your ride position and your body armor set-up with one of their technicians and a trusty heat gun.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
You should get one... Kenny says.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Ex-World Cup racer and 15 time German DH champion, Marcus Klausmann, is an integral part of Ortema's research and development program for new products for the MTB market. Last year he raced Enduro and worked closely with the design team to create the Ortho-Max Enduro Jacket, which went on to claim a Eurobike and Design and Innovation Award. Ever the true professional in everything he does and with over twenty years of experience from his long racing career, he is well qualified to assist the brand. Markus is a picky guy when it comes to his equipment, everything has to be just right and Ortema are aiming to set that same goal for everything they bring to market.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Klausmann destroying some of the Stuttgart terrain just outside the city. His great wealth of experience is obviously a great asset to a company spread across multiple sports.


Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Back at the clinic, chief physician Dr. Joerg Richter checks out the damage with a patient. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most commonly injured in the knee with some 100,000 people suffering problems every year in Germany alone. With many more struggling with PCL, painful meniscus injuries and early arthritis symptoms, Ortema has developed one of the best supports for knee stabilisation alongside its own team of medical experts – the K-Com brace. Time to find out how these things are put together!

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The team of expert technicians making your custom brace a reality.


Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The customer, in this case, both a skier and a rider, has his leg marked with a Sharpie to indicate the main muscle groups and bones, before being photographed and having plaster applied.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The plaster-cast is removed and re-marked inside for clarity in the phases to follow.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Having been sealed to make a hollow mould the technician determines the optimum position of the pivot point for the brace. It's a crucial part of the process because while placing it too high isn't so problematic if the joint is positioned too low movement will be badly restricted. A senior technician usually also gives his opinion for this important stage and will also refer back to the pictures.


Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
After driving a metal rod across the width of the cast at the point where the polycentric joint will sit, our technician, Kevin, covers the bottom of the leg cast so it can be filled.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Clay is poured into the mould to produce a solid cast of the customer's leg. Kevin is now adding a special blue-dyed plaster mix back onto the leg to replicate where muscle will take up additional space as it flexes during activity and in this case, with a bit extra as the customer's leg has reduced in muscle mass on account of his ACL injury.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Once dry it is filed down to a smooth finish, the blue areas obviously indicating where additional material has been applied.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The cast has black plastic spacers nailed into place which will accommodate the straps and ensure a flat and even fit for the brace. It is then wrapped in multiple layers of bandage to account for the padding material that will line the inside of the completed brace. In time the customer will be able to reduce the thickness of the liner as his muscle returns to full strength and size.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The articulated titanium joints are shaped and all sharp edges ground smooth before being fitted on either side of our 'leg'. Thanks to interlocking teeth they are adjustable as to how much flexion and extension they will allow on the final product.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The exact method for lay-up of the carbon weave has to remain an Ortema secret, but it is applied after a layer of clear plastic is wrapped around the bandage-clad cast.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
The resin is mixed with a setting agent, poured into the top of a second layer of clear plastic enclosing the carbon weave.
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
It is then massaged over all areas of the brace to fill all the gaps between the carbon material.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Any athlete who visits Orthema gets to make the most of the rehab facilities while they wait.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Our man Gunther, hits the rowing machines while he waits for the technicians to finish rustling up his brace.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
You should never ride on an empty stomach and in Stuttgart, a pretzel is always a great choice.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Dominique Essig, marketing manager of the Ortema Sports Protection department meets up with Ortema athletes Markus Klausmann and Steffi Marth to get out in the woods for a lunch ride.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Steffi recently got fitted out with an Ortema carbon wrist brace after a bad fracture to her radius last summer.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer


bigquotesThere aren't too many options on the market for a custom brace that you know is going to fit perfectly. My new wrist brace is super lightweight and gives me the confidence to take on roots, rocks and the occasional jump again after my injury last year. It still allows a wide range of movement so doesn't restrict my grip in the turns, it's just good to know I won't be hyper-extending my wrist in a big compression or if me and my bike part ways unexpectedlySteffi Marth


Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Klausmann styling his way through the last of the winter leaves.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Dominique runs a pair of K-Coms as a preventative on both his MX and enduro bikes after struggling with ACL injury in the past.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Back at the HQ a couple of hours later and our brace is finally starting to take shape, it's time to cut the carbon shell in half because it's just the front section we'll be needing for this ACL injury specific brace design.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Kevin marks the cut lines that will determine the brace's final shape.
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
These are decided again referring back to the photos indicating the customer's leg musculature and kneecap position etc.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Rough cuts from the jig-saw are sanded completely smooth before the low-profile joints are screwed into place and all necessary straps attached.

Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
So there we have it – the finished product, one custom Ortema K-Com knee brace specific for ACL injury.


All very impressive, but we had to ask; why spend so much time and energy in the production of a custom-fitted brace like this when there are other companies out there taking the easy route of standardised small, medium and large offerings for less money?

For Ortema it's the safety aspect; only a knee brace with the perfect fit can offer the highest level of protection against injury or the level of stability required after damage has been done. A precision tailoring also prevents the number one reason you might want to leave your brace at home – slippage. If a brace slides down the leg and doesn’t maintain the optimum position, it will inhibit movement and potentially also fail in its protective duties.

To sum, a custom brace means better fit, less movement inside the brace, no slipping so better protection. Bear in mind Ortema are also designing their knee braces for specific anatomical needs and different diagnosis (ACL, bilateral or PCL damage). As we've seen, only the lightest and strongest material (carbon and titanium) is used to build the K-Com and every customer can personalize their brace with their name, number, logo or even whole colorways. Pretty neat. Until next time Stuttgart...


Inside Ortema - The German Custom Brace Producer
Gunther is shown how to attach the protective knee cup to his finished brace so he can be ready to hit the trails and forget about his injury.


Posted In:
Industry News



57 Comments

  • 71 4
 Can they fix Greg Minaar's frame?
  • 106 0
 Nope. Too late. It's already in the ocean.
  • 4 1
 @jollyXroger: Hahaaaaaaaa!
  • 27 1
 Step1: Sell your kidney.
Step2: Buy a custom brace.
Step 3: Go ride with your properly working knee.
  • 5 0
 Welcome to my life.
  • 10 0
 the cycle continues and now you are 40 % carbon

(brags about weight reduction)
  • 1 0
 true...I got lucky and the 399 USD of my POD knee brace was passed by to my insurance... that sh*t just works.. used it for 7 months for DH until I was OK (in my head)..
  • 2 1
 @radney: I still got both kidneys and my knee tries to pop out from time to time, at least it doesn't get stuck like before surgery Big Grin
  • 8 0
 very important: protection. there are so many companies out there right now producing terrible protection pads just for the sake of getting something out there and sold. Ortema and Leatt are real protection pads.
  • 1 0
 My knee still hurts from falling on pump track in 661 Evo pads (2011).
D3O is bullshit. Lesson learnt hard (or rather painful) way.
  • 10 6
 Interesting article. I'm a bit surprised about the use of plaster casts, when laser 3D imaging/scanning and 3D printers exist. Seems to me it would be a lot more efficient to use more modern technology to create the forms. They can use laser imagery to produce custom floor mats for a car, yet these guys still use plaster casts.
  • 5 4
 Hopefully it's in the works. Missing technology jumps like that can seriously hurt a company the way things move so fast these days.
  • 13 0
 True, there may be more technologically advanced systems than plaster cast...however, you ever order a set of those "laser-measured" car mats? I used to work in the automotive industry, and the biggest company that makes those laser measured mats, WeatherTech, has some of the most poor-fitting floor mats around. There were only a handful of times when those mats were ordered that they ended up fitting as suggested. One guy ordered 4 different sets, and they all fit really poorly. While I am sure laser imagery technology exists that is way beyond anything WeatherTech has ever even considered, that doesn't mean they should embrace it immediately. If plaster works well, and the quality of these pieces suggests they have worked out the plaster process pretty damn well, then why "upgrade" to unknown tech? Also, plaster does allow the technician making the brace to go to a direct example of the leg in question. Not the most elegant solution perhaps, but can't argue with the results!
  • 7 0
 Not a question of accuracy, The cost of using plaster is cheaper than the cost of the 3d print material that can handle vacuum and surface finish requirements of a carbon fiber part.
  • 2 0
 I think that it is a combination of how much the forms should cost and, a plaster cast takes less time than scanning up the lag and printing it out in a 3D printer. Printing out such a big object can take over 6hours up to days.
  • 3 0
 Today's 3D printing technology is a lot of things, but it is definitely not fast. Making a plaster cast will still take less time than scanning and printing would. And with a plaster cast you can make sure that the patient doesn't move. With 3D scanning, even slight movement would lead to an imprecise result. I'm not sure, but I'd guess that the money is made with the mass produced stuff anyway...
  • 2 1
 @woodybepierced: Yes, go ahead and lecture a company in a technology you know nothing about
  • 4 0
 Awesome article, I enjoyed this and have always wondered why they were so much $. I knew they took measurements etc to produce them to custom fit your knee but had no idea they went to this extent. $5k is a lot, but if it can prevent spending 5-6k until you meet your max out of pocket with the insurance, it might just be the cheaper route. Hell the $ isn't even the worst part of an injury, the mental darkness and waiting game is way more challenging than the money.
  • 2 0
 Despite the funny name, the "Ortho-max enduro jacket" seems to be a very well designed and made piece of kit. Bought one last spring and it's just super comfortable and fit me atleast better than some of the other protection jackets I've tried on. You only notice it during breaks really, so I've even worn it for some normal trail rides if I've felt I might try some gnarlier (for me) features. Haven't had any huge spills with it yet but the placing/size of the pads seems on point. Hope it'll save me the next time I f*ck up.
  • 2 0
 one of the best protection you can get! had a bad Motocross crash in 2013 and the P1 Backprotector felt like I was falling softly on a comfy mattress. When it comes to upper body protection I will only buy from Ortema!
  • 5 0
 I need that carbon face guard to lighten up my gimp suit
  • 2 0
 Im really interested in price because I have both of my knees fucked up. I tried few uni MX knee braces, but it was too loose or to tight. Plus point is that Im from Czech republic, so its close to their facility in Germany
  • 1 0
 Wouldn't it be neat if someone made blue prints for a 3D printed Neck brace? They make a design that actually does the job of protecting your neck while being made out of Nylon. All you have to do is just print it and install the straps and rubber or cloth material yourself for comfort then your done.
  • 2 0
 What an amazing time to be alive! Thanks to these folks and all the others who devote their lives to helping us keep doing what we love! Thanks!!!
  • 3 0
 yes, I checked it for you. A pair of k-coms is $5k.

ortema-shop.us/knees/k-com--19.html
  • 1 0
 @ismasan: which is about 1/10th of the cost of one knee surgery in the US so a relative bargain.
  • 2 0
 Separated my ACL in my twenties. Tweaked it last week. Sitting here reading this with a knee the size of a melon waiting for the swelling to go down so I can ride
Frown
  • 2 1
 Good on ya
  • 3 0
 $5k is a lot but is cheaper than the time off work, family time, hobby time, etc.... I hope I never need a pair.
  • 1 0
 Get a CTi if you do... cheaper, also made from a real positive, and way better hinges than these.
  • 2 0
 The spread eagle crotch shot for the clickbait image was a solid choice... go pinkbike!
  • 1 0
 Maybe Donjoy is a cheaper alternative, I rode some months with one until my knee got better.

www.djoglobal.com/our-brands/donjoy
  • 4 1
 Nice dsl on the pretzel.
  • 1 0
 Interestingly Ken Roczen doesn't use their wrist brace after his injury. He has one from mobius instead.
  • 1 0
 I can't see him wearing one of them neck braces. But he will promote them for cash money
  • 3 0
 I'm batman !!!!
  • 2 0
 So... why does the pretzel have its own set of lips?!
  • 1 0
 So unless you live within driving distance of a factory in Germany, we've read this article for naught.
  • 1 0
 Totally off-topic: I you want a fresh and good bretzel, don't get it from ALDI !
  • 2 0
 Needs more photos.
  • 2 0
 Looks nice
  • 1 0
 I thought I was the only one wearing moto knee braces on the mountain.
  • 1 0
 They look serious and scary! But i am glad smth like this exists.
  • 1 0
 Question 1 of 1:
What does a pair of custom knee braces cost?
  • 1 0
 my knees, ankles, and right wrist say hello.
  • 1 0
 is this only guy doing all the job?
  • 1 0
 Something we all should wear, before we need to wear them.
  • 1 0
 How much this costs?
  • 2 3
 Nice company brochure. Aaaaand...skipped straight to comments.
  • 2 3
 Zee Germans!
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