WORCESTER (CBS) – Students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have developed a sports shoe prototype that aims to protect athletes from ACL injuries.

The special shoe is designed to prevent non-contact injuries to the ankle and knee. A tear to the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament often sidelines an athlete for months, as was the case with New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman last year.

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The team of student engineers received more than $400,000 from angel investors to develop and test the shoe. The plan is to make about 10 pairs in campus labs by January and produce more in the next year.

The shoe prototype. (Photo credit: WPI)

ACL injuries are often caused when an athlete tries to land a jump, slow down, and plant and pivot off their foot. The shoe aims to reduce the load to the ankle and knee.

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Inside the shoes are tiny, flexible polymer pieces called “goat’s-head springs” – a reference to WPI’s mascot.

“The idea is that work from the effort exerted when someone is running and cutting would be absorbed by deforming the springs instead of tearing an ACL or spraining an ankle,” WPI mechanical engineering professor Christopher Brown said in a statement.

Ed Cowle, the New York-based angel investor and CEO of Sports Engineering, Inc., says this could be a big development in the shoe industry.

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“There’s not a lot of technical innovation in the athletic footwear space,” he said in a statement. “This disruptive technology fills a specific need, given the increasing number of ankle and knee injuries in sports.”