Jeff Erenstone, right, helps fit Steve Halloran with a new hockey skate prosthetic, at Erenstone’s Plattsburgh office of Mountain Orthotics and Prosthetics.
When it comes to sporting equipment for handicapped athletes, there are very few places in the country where you can find an expert in the field. One of those very few places is right here in the North Country.
Jeff Erenstone, owner of Mountain Orthotics and Prosthetics in Lake Placid and Plattsburgh, is one of the preeminent designers and builders of adaptive sporting equipment in the country. From a hockey skate for an athlete missing their lower leg, to a skeleton sled for a paraplegic athlete with no arms, to a specially designed and built foot made for rock climbing, if it will help an adaptive athlete to compete in a sport, Erenstone can design and build it.
The Lake Placid native is sought out by athletes from around the country, and his gear can be found anywhere from a pick-up hockey game at a local pond, to the Empire State and Paralympic Games.
Erenstone’s practice specializes in “regular” prosthetics and orthotics, but equipping athletes is a passion.
“It’s enjoyable to help someone achieve their goal. It’s obvious and attainable,” said Erenstone. “They’re trying to return to the things they had been doing before. It’s life-fulfilling for them.”
While helping all adaptive athletes back to their sports is fulfilling for him, it’s working with children that Erenstone takes special pleasure. He has been attending Camp No Limits for eight years. Camp No Limits is a camp that takes place in various locations around the country, where handicapped children are able to meet other children with similar handicaps, and learn how to just be a kid.
Some disabled children, Erenstone says, might come from smaller towns where they are the only child, for instance, missing a limb. They get to Camp No Limits, and they see other kids running on their prosthetics, and they start to run.
“Every kid is an athlete,” says Erenstone.
Along with helping people return to an active life, conquering the individual design challenge of each new case is rewarding for Erenstone. For some applications Erenstone might start with a readily available prosthetic device, like a Flex-Foot Cheetah running blade, and it can be adapted to the particular person and sport. For others, however, there might be nothing on the market to start from. For these cases, Erenstone just starts from scratch.
“I love the design challenge. You have no idea the amount of forces and situations you run into in an adaptive sport situation. You have to combine support with mobility, in a nice enough package that they will want to use it,” he said.
Unfortunately, Erenstone only sees his business picking up in the future. With over a decade of Americans at war, he has already seen an influx of soldiers in adaptive sports.
Whenever there is a war, Erenstone says, there is a huge increase in technology in the field. Where he sees the technology increasing the most, currently, is in the use of computers in prosthetics, as well as in adaptive sports. Soldiers, he says, are the kind of people who were typically active before their injury, and are going to stay active after, just the kind of person who goes into adaptive sports.
Wherever that technology might lead, there is no doubt that Erenstone will be using it to equip adaptive athletes and get them back into competition, or off the sidelines for the first time.