A design student who came up with an innovative physiotherapy tool for injured athletes has been heaped with more awards following her final year degree show.


University of Dundee student Jodie Sinclair, from Laxdale, was already flying high after winning venture funding for her invention, a lightweight ‘smartband’ called Theo, which helps measure muscle activity after injury.


From May 18th to 26th she was showing off her new business idea at the final year students’ degree show, after hearing that she’s been awarded first class honours in her BSc in product design. 


During that show, she heard that a further award had been bestowed on her by the University of Dundee – the award for innovation in healthcare design.


On Wednesday May 22nd she pitched her innovation at Bio-Dundee, an international healthcare and life sciences conference. Her business idea was one in a field of four which included three presentations from qualified doctors. After a gruelling and intense ten-minute pitch to well-informed judges, she learnt that her project had won the grand prize, which includes £500 investment cash and more networking opportunities for the future.


Jodie said on Tuesday May 28th: “The conference was a fantastic networking event, I received a great response and made good contacts after pitching. The night before, at the gala dinner, I was in conversations with Chris van der Kuyle, who is worth £150m and is the creator of Minecraft. I had no idea who he was when speaking to him – I only found out when he went up on stage as the keynote speaker. It was probably for the best not knowing who he was, I'm sure there would have been some nerves otherwise!”


Earlier this year, Jodie’s innovation won a £1,500 prize in the art and design category of Venture 2019, an annual entrepreneurship competition. Part of that prize is a place on the MedTech development programme this summer, with a stipend to allow her to participate.


Jodie’s product is the tangible evidence of her determination not to let bad luck get in the way of her career. In 2014 she was just about to head off for her place at the University of Dundee after leaving the Nicolson Institute, when she fell off her skateboard and ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).


The ACL is one of the two ligaments which connect the thigh to the shin and enable the knee joint to work. At the time Jodie was an active athlete, who’d competed for the Western Isles at the Island Games in Jersey and was looking forward to playing rugby and football at university.


Instead she found herself with an undiagnosed injury that, eventually, needed reconstructive surgery. From being an agile athlete and ready for anything, Jodie found herself in a very different position after the operation, as she told welovestornoway.com:


“I went for several months without diagnosis and then, after an MRI showed what it was, I had to wait a year for an operation. By the time I had the op my thigh muscle had completely depleted and, after surgery, I had to struggle to do exercises which I could have just done without thinking about before my injury. The exercises would work when I was with a physio, but when I was at home, I felt like I wasn’t working the right muscle and nothing was happening. It was so demotivating.”


But from that experience Jodie invented her new best friend – Theo. “The idea stemmed from that – it’s a device you wear when doing repetitive exercise and the muscle sensors take one reading using all three sensors, linking with an app which gives live feedback showing muscle tension.


“After your exercise session it will show you a progress chart and over the weeks you will see how it changes. You can exercise with the sensors on the bad leg, then on the good leg, and the lines on the app will show you how you are moving towards normal function in the damaged leg.”


Initially developed for ACL injury, Jodie designed the Theo to be strapped around the thigh muscle. She’s also made a smaller strap to fit round the bicep, and she’s working to be able to afford lightweight production models.