Injured snowmobiler designs high-impact 'moto-knee'
ASPEN — In 2008, professional snowmobiler Mike Schultz was flat on his back, staring at the bottom of his boot.
While trying to pass a competitor, he was dumped from his sled, and his left leg hit the snow with such forced that it snapped backward at the knee. The injury was so severe, his lower leg was amputated.
One year later, and not enjoying life outside of extreme sports, Schultz, 32, was thrilled when he learned the 2009 Summer X Games was adding adaptive motocross to its lineup.
Schultz soon discovered, however, that the prosthesis fitted after his injury couldn’t withstand the high impacts of extreme sports.
With the drive to return to the sport he loved, and previous experience in welding, Schultz began building a stronger prosthesis using Fox mountain bike parts.
Four gold medals, one patent and a new business later, Schultz picked up his fifth gold medal Sunday in the adaptive SnoCross race at the Winter X Games in Aspen.
The new and improved prosthesis, dubbed the “moto-knee” and fashioned around the same technology as the spring in mountain bike, is made out of a lightweight metal alloy.
“The Fox mountain bike shock in the leg works like the quadricep muscle in my leg,” said Schultz, who is from St. Cloud, Minn. “That shock, coupled with the linkage system that I now have patented, allows it to feel really nature with its range of motion. It allows me to hit things like that 80-foot uphill triple (jump), come up short on it, and suck that impact right up and keep going.
“Every year, through development, I kinda lightened it up, made it a smaller package and fine-tuned the shock valving.”
Built by Schultz’s company in Pillager, Minn., Biodapt, the metal limb is aimed at amputees who want to compete in high-impact sports. Biodapt also produces a foot prosthesis.
“I saw an opportunity to create a business,” Schultz said. “It was awesome to build something to get myself back out there. I found out real quick found out that other amputees could benefit from it, too. It’s kinda a whole win-win situation because I get to go out and do the things I want to do and other amputees get to go out and do what they want to do, too.
“It’s sports-based for cycling, motocross, snowmobiles, ATVs, horseback riding. The kind of thing where you’re in that active squat position and need to have your legs engaged.”
The adaptive SnoCross race began in 2010, and Schultz has won the gold medal each year except 2013, when the race wasn’t held. The 2014 Winter X Games was particularly special from a business standpoint, with Schultz wearing the No. 100 serial number prosthesis during the race.
“My special anodized red moto-knee with the serial No. 100 on it,” Schultz said. “So there’s 99 other guys running around with the moto-knee. I’ve got a few of them around the world, so it’s a pretty cool deal.”
Schultz said he used the momentum from his Summer X Games adaptive motocross gold medal to perform well in during the adaptive SnoCross race.
“I got the ball rolling pretty good here,” Schultz said. “To come here and grab another gold medal is insane. It’s so much hard work and effort put into it.
“To come out here at 8,000 feet, it’s a lot of tuning the machine to make sure it runs good, a lot of hard work in the gym to stay in shape and trying not make any mistakes out there.
“These guys have all been through the wringer with their injuries and we’ve all had to fight to be here and for this sport. We’re all good buddies because of that.”