Orthopedic Brace and Support Markets Battles Between Growth and Decline

A recently completed study by Frost & Sullivan, a growth strategy
development company, explored the critical market drivers, challenges and
technological trends that impact U.S. brace and support markets today.

The study divided the breakdown of revenues for total brace and support
markets into mutually exclusive categories including knee braces, ankle braces,
pain management systems, walkers, back soft goods, spinal orthoses and upper
extremity softgoods.

According to the study, in 2009 the total revenue generated by the brace
and support market reached $1.68 billion in the United States. The largest
revenue share compared to other segments of the market was the knee brace and
supports sector both in the United States and globally.

  Source: Frost and Sullivan

“An important factor that is a driver for all of the segments is
the aging population’s need for medical devices,” Aarti Shetty,
industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan told O&P Business
. “It is almost cliché to say ‘aging
population’ but it is true when discussing the orthopedic market because
of the active lifestyle that they lead.”

The active lifestyle of the aging population has led to a consistent
increase in instances of osteoarthritis. Shetty estimated that the
osteoarthritis brace and supports market will most certainly grow in the future
due to the older population’s increased awareness of health and fitness.

“Another segment that is gaining in the market is postoperative
braces,” Shetty explained. “The advancements in orthopedic surgery in
the last 5 years has changed the scene. As the adoption of surgery has
increased, the usage of knee, ankle and joint braces has also increased.”

Although innovative surgery has currently increased the adoption of
knee, ankle and joint braces, those same improvements could potentially pose a
challenge to the orthopedic device sector in the future.

“Minimally invasive surgeries could create a challenge because
people can get to their normal activities relatively sooner,” Shetty said.

As surgery progresses and the time to heal decreases, a patient’s
need for braces and supports declines. Shetty acknowledged the battling market
factors while downplaying the short-term concern of innovative surgery.

“Maybe in the long run when minimally invasive surgery becomes the
norm in the market, it could have bigger effects,” she said. “But
right now, I don’t believe it is one of the looming challenges of the

The orthopedic brace and support sector is a mature market. They are
ingrained in the culture of the United States and around the world. Therefore,
it can be difficult to transform or have a major impact on the market without a
groundbreaking innovation. Shetty came to this conclusion by comparing data
from her 2006 study on the same subject to her current one.

“In those 4 years, nothing has drastically changed,” Shetty

Not even revolutionary policy changes such as the health care reform
bill is expected to have an impact on the brace and support markets, Shetty

“I talked to most of the manufacturers about the economy and health
care reform and most of them said that they do not believe it will be a major
factor in this market,” she said. — by Anthony Calabro

For more information:

  • Hoydicz J. Billion dollar orthosis and support market still
    climbing. O&P Business News 2007; 16(4):30-31. Available at:
    www.oandpbusinessnews.com/view.aspx?rid=58729. Accessed: June
    25, 2010.


Soft goods and custom knee braces are a great way to supplement income
in the O&P industry. However, custom osteoarthritis or ACL knee braces can
become complicated when considering cost vs. reimbursement. Since the market
demand is high and supply is limited, manufacturers are capitalizing on this
via pricing and insurance companies are not paying as well. You can find
yourself spending a large amount of time chasing after minimal dollars,
effectively reducing profit margins. We are caught in a catch-22 by trying to
provide quality service while at the same time running a lucrative business.

Surgeons are producing great outcomes in combination with postoperative
use of durable medical equipment. This makes the doctor’s job easier, the
patient’s return to an active lifestyle sooner and makes our need much
more vital. I feel that the physician wants braces incorporated in the process,
but at the same time, the patient needs that reminder to remain cautious
following a surgical procedure in order to avoid reinjury.

—Jeremy Crowell, BOCP
Manager, Center for
Orthotics Design

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