20 Apr 2021

The Kiwi company whose wearable tech is helping elite athletes

From Nine To Noon, 11:35 am on 20 April 2021

A Christchurch company has created wearable technology to help elite athletes perform better and recover faster. Myovolt's pads for backs, shoulders, arms and legs, deliver focal vibration treatment to promote circulation and stimulate nerves - and are designed to be comfortable to wear.

Steve Leftly is one of the brains behind it, along with long-term colleague Dr Dianne Jones. The pair have also worked on controls for NASA spacesuits and so-called "hot pants" used by the British cycling team at the London 2012 Olympics.

Lefly talks to Nine to Noon about the technology and the wider application being explored for medical conditions.

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Photo: Supplied

He tells Kathryn Ryan the company is still sport-focussed at this stage and the idea is that an athlete who has a particular problem with a joint or muscle wears the garment in that region to get a therapeutic treatment on the go.

“They look like a sports brace or a sports strap that you might just Velcro around your knee or lower back to support the joint and we’ve got some electronic technology embedded within that strap – in a module form – to provide this reasonably high-tech treatment to the area.”

Focal vibration, he explains, is a widely known medical treatment to stimulate muscles and nerves in the body.

“Basically, it’s like normal vibration that you have in other vibration devices, but it’s of a very specific frequency range – 30-80 times a second – and that’s a specific range that carries out some pretty interesting features in the tissues. It creates nitrous oxide, it opens up the vessels and allows the blood to flow and stimulate some nerves. It provides a wide range of benefits.”

Studies using the technology have been published internationally in medical and sport journals and that has spurred other studies to examine whether the tech can be used in other medical situations.

“We’re building quite a good body of published research showing how this technology works and why it does.”

One of the studies in the United States involves using Myovolt to mediate mobility issues from circulation issues stemming from diabetes.

“It affects their mobility pretty badly and they’re looking at wearable technologies that can improve the outcomes from that. Myovolt’s undergone a good number of studies with that university out in Oklahoma now and some of those have been published showing really good response.”

Another study based here at AUT’s chiropractic research centre is looking at a stroke rehabilitation trial where they’re finding a good response using Myovolt to increase the mobility and dexterity of people who’ve suffered strokes.

While the company has thus far being focussed on components for other garment producers, Leftly says they will now begin to expand Myovolt as a consumer product and garment for elite athletes – particularly with the Olympics coming up.

“We will be aiming to build into a $1 billion brand and this is our own technology, we’re in control of the scale of that brand. This is a new technology, we’re leading the innovation in this space and we’re looking to scale up.”