Published April 16, 2013
Volume 21, Number 4

Hanger Hits Forbes’ 100 Best Small Companies List   

Hanger’s Jon Wilson with some of the company’s custom orthotics.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Fresh from a rebranding and corporate name change to Hanger, the former Hanger Orthopedic Group, the nation’s oldest and largest maker of prosthetics and orthotics (P&O), was honored in Forbes magazine last year as one of the 100 Best Small Companies in the United States. It also ranked #5 within the category "Best Small Companies Hiring” domestically. 

The local Hanger Clinic, one of more than 700 nationwide, has been serving patients from its Hacienda location at 5880 West Las Positas Drive for more than two decades. It has seen a steady progression of advances in the products and services “that enhance human physical capability” and improve the quality of life for many patients.

The Clinic’s largest applications are in the field of orthotics, the design, fabrication, and fitting of braces and supports to treat neuromuscular and musculoskeletal conditions--whether the result of illness, injury, or congenital anomalies. According to Hacienda Clinic Manager Jon Wilson, a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist and Fellow of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists, “we work with all levels of mobility deficiencies and preventative treatments in the field of orthoses--for example, diabetic insoles and shoes as a preventative treatment or custom foot, ankle, or knee orthoses for more complex mobility issues. In the typical clinic schedule, we may see the weekend warrior needing ankle or knee supports and then evaluate, design, and fit patients with post-polio syndrome.”

One reason behind the growing need for such devices is the inevitable degenerative process to which the human body is subject. “Age and gravity ultimately win out,” Wilson notes. “Some people’s feet, hips, or knees just don’t travel well. They develop osteoarthritis or some other type of the progressive degeneration of the neuromuscular or musculoskeletal systems.” 

On the prosthetics side Hanger custom designs, fabricates, and fits artificial limbs. The two most frequent causes of limb loss among local patients are diabetes and end-stage vascular insufficiency in aging seniors, Wilson says.

Technology has brought many innovations in replacement limbs, and Hanger has been a leading player in this arena, for example, fitting an auto accident victim with a microprocessor-controlled prosthetic hand with functioning fingers.

The most notable patient is probably Winter, the dolphin who at age three months lost her entire tail and two vertebrae after being caught in a crab trap.

Hanger collaborated with a leading marine mammal veterinarian and the professionals at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in the process of equipping her with a prosthetic tail. The story of Winter’s rehabilitation was told in the hit film “The Dolphin Tale.”

Representing just a tiny fraction of the nation’s healthcare spending, P&O is usually not such a high-profile field.  As a profession it often passes under the radar, Wilson notes. Most practitioners entered the field because someone they knew--most often, a family member or friend--had neuromuscular problems and had to use the services. “That piques your interest,” Wilson says.

His own experience follows the paradigm: his father was both an amputee and a prosthetist, and his brother is involved in the manufacturing part of the industry. Patients are fortunate the field is populated by such seasoned, caring professionals.

Go to www.hanger.com to find out more.

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