Faculty Innovation Helps Athletes Get Back in the Game

Emily Barrett, assistant director of communications
A football players wears the achieve mask under his helmet
The innovative Achieve Mask allows players and sports teams to safely return to play during COVID-19.

For those who love sports, the chance to compete means everything.

When COVID-19 brought closures to sport and training venues, athletes of all ages and levels had to call a timeout on competition of any kind. After witnessing teams and athletes struggle to compete, Dawn Gulick, professor of physical therapy, wanted to find a way to get players back in the game safely. 

We wanted to give people a tool to be able to safely train and be able to have some semblance of normalcy in their life to not only keep them physically healthy but to maintain their psychological well-being. —Dawn Gulick, physical therapy professor

Working alongside her daughter, a professional USA Cyclist, and a team of engineers from Therapeutic Articulations LLC, Gulick developed the Achieve Mask, a face mask designed specifically for those competing in a sport or engaging in a high performance activity. 

The product development blends Gulick’s medical and sports orthopedics backgrounds. Unlike other face masks, Gulick came up with a unique and flexible nose bridge through repurposing a SAM splint-type material, an immobilizing device made of soft aluminum and foam often used to treat sports injuries. 

“We started testing thermoplastics and bendable metals and found that instead of using foam, which can get wet, we could dip the metal into a rubber bath to put a coating on it which allowed us to make it flat so that an individual can shape it to their nose,” Gulick said. 

The device’s contour feature along with antimicrobial moisture-wicking fabric created a comfortable fit without impeding breathing. There two versions that can be worn with and without a helmet. 

“Making the mask out of antimicrobial moisture-wicking fabric makes it easier to breathe but also traps the water droplets,” Gulick said. 

Athletes aren’t the only ones to benefit from this product. Gulick’s development demonstrates the real-world innovations and industry connections that Widener faculty bring to classroom. 

I want to empower students to know that there are resources that can take their ideas to the next level. —Dawn Gulick

Gulick, who brings years of experience in the medical technology development fields, believes part of teaching the next generation of care providers is showing the value of putting ideas into action.

“This shows students that anything is possible,” said Gulick. 

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