No limits for amputee behind Real Madrid sensor suits
The determined entrepreneur behind Liverpool firm Aqua Running is working with European champions Real Madrid to incorporate cutting-edge sensor technology into its hydro buoyancy suits.
Terry Nelson saw a promising football career with his beloved Liverpool ruined by kidney failure and has since battled through two kidney transplants, 12 years on dialysis and a leg amputation, among other related conditions.
The firm founded by the World Transplant Games gold medallist now provides its TNAR hydro buoyancy system suits to Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs, as well as England Rugby, the British Lions and Leicester Tigers.
→ Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram will be speaking at What's the future of Liverpool City Region? on 18th April 2018. Book now
The suits, which are used to exercise in swimming pools without touching the bottom – keeping the upper body out of the water, the body upright and allowing complete flexibility for the arms and legs – were designed with the help of scientists at several UK universities.
“It’s one of the highest calorie-burning activities in the world and the chances of injury are virtually non-existent as there is no strain or impact on the body,” says Terry.
“It’s great for people with heart conditions because your heart rate is lower than it would be on land for the same level of exercise intensity due to the pressure of the water.”
He says anyone can now train intensively through any injury, illness or physical challenge. “We have a saying at Aqua Running: 'No impact, no limits'.”
Terry took his prototype directly to the doctors and coaches at the Spanish giants, going against all business advice. “People have a fear of failure, but I don’t. What I fear is 12 years on dialysis,” he tells BusinessCloud.
“Getting into Madrid was the key: when I go to New York now, for example, the Yankees [baseball team] and the Giants [NFL team] open the door to me because I work with Sanitas Real Madrid Medical Services.
“I was confident that if I went to the biggest club in the world, right at the top of the pyramid, the trickle-down effect to other areas, right down to children with disability, would happen from there.”
‘Real Madrid's fourth kit’, as it became known in Spain, helped Amanda Worne, who was paralysed from the waist down, to run for the first time after Terry was contacted by Nick Knowles from popular TV show DIY SOS.
“She’s running towards the camera – just like Steven Gerrard when he kissed the camera near the corner flag against Manchester United in the FA Cup!” Terry says of the video on Aqua Running’s website. “The suit has changed her life.”
Terry, who is largely deaf, says securing design patents and other business costs almost bankrupted him several times in the last decade but has just secured investment from the US which will help him build a global company and grow the number of people he can help. He is in New York this week, meeting with the new investors.
English local authorities are now offering Aqua Running classes in municipal pools
The company is now based at leading technology centre Sensor City in Liverpool as it moves into wearable tech. The smart suits are being developed in association with Real to enable accurate physiological data to be retrieved by performance coaches.
“I partnered with two of the biggest companies in the world in that field: STATSports, who all the Premier league teams use, and Catapult. Their vests have got all the technology, but are not able to get accurate data through the water,” says Terry.
“I went deep into the testing with them both, travelling to Silicon Valley and Switzerland, but the bottom line was that the technology doesn't exist. That’s why we moved to Sensor City.
“The lead engineer here, John Kenny, is an expert in extreme water environments sensor technology. He can develop the tech here and it's in place now.”
The new suits should launch later this year and will be able to transfer real-time data to paired devices on biomechanics, muscular balance, oxygen saturation and in several other areas. All of the parameters have come directly from Real Madrid.
“If it suits Real Madrid, it'll probably suit every sports team in the world,” says Terry. “But we also work with the national clinic for children with cerebral palsy and brain paralysis in Spain: I've got a list of parameters from them which we're also developing in a test bed to help them exercise.”
Enjoy extra content and videos in the interactive digital magazine below