February 05, 2016      

Despite breaking his right forearm during the NFC Championship a couple weeks ago, Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis will play in Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos, and he might start.

Davis underwent surgery the day after the NFC Championship and had a plate and a dozen screws inserted into his arm. Now he’ll be getting additional help from a 3D-printed brace. A company called Whiteclouds used a 3D scan of Davis’ arm to design, in eight hours, a shock-absorbing brace that’s made from a blend of plastic and rubber-like materials.

It took about 30 hours to print the brace using a Stratasys Connex 3D printer. The brace, according to CNET, is breathable, lightweight and can withstand a collision. Davis received the brace in time to test it during practice all week leading up to the Super Bowl.

“Yes, yes I do (expect Davis to start) based on everything I’m seeing from him right now and what the doctors have talked about – they talk about him every day and we go over everything he’s done and what they’re seeing. That’s been a huge plus.” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He actually took a shot in the arm yesterday and said ‘I’m fine. That felt pretty good.'”

If he plays in Super Bowl 50 with the brace, he will become the first NFL player to wear a piece of 3D-printed equipment in an official league game.

A rendering of the Davis’s 3D-printed brace complete with his uniform number. (Photo: Whiteclouds)

He reportedly tried four other braces during practice this week, but the 3D-printed brace ended up being the best option. Davis will wear the brace underneath a layer of protective foam that will be taped to match the team’s uniforms. Speaking to Charlotte Observer reporter Jonathan Jones after the Panther’s Wednesday practice, Davis said he “took every opportunity that I could to bump it against something and really see how it feels.”

We’ll have to wait and see how well the 3D-printed brace holds up, but it would be a boon to Carolina if Davis can play at full speed. Davis, in his 11th season in the NFL, has recorded at least 100 tackles in each of the last four seasons and was selected to his first Pro Bowl this season.

The 32-year-old has played his entire career for Carolina, which is seeking its first Super Bowl win in franchise history. Davis, who’s described as a “disruptive blitzer, a consistent open-field tackler and an adept pass defender,” was a big reason why Carolina’s defense ranked sixth in the NFL in both total yards per game (322.9) and points allowed per game (19.2).