Some of the world's best athletes are about to show just what plastics can do to help them win.
Not that I expect plastics will be mentioned specifically. Instead, the Tokyo Paralympics, starting Aug. 24 in Tokyo, will likely refer to carbon fiber if they mention materials at all. But make no mistake, the games will definitely show off both the athletes and improvements to the technology that will help them make it to the medal stand.
Consider one discipline for an example, the long jump. Ossür, the highest-profile maker of running blades and other athletic prosthetics, notes that blades for jumpers are designed specifically for their needs. The carbon-fiber composite has to be engineered for fast forward motion, then transfer that energy into the vertical part of the jump, Ossür notes.
But even as the games are a showcase for high-technology prosthetics, the vast majority — an estimated 90 percent — of people in need of even basic prosthetics don't have access to them, according to the World Health Organization.
Typically that's because people are living in areas where they can't access adequate medical services. But even in the U.S., some insurance policies don't cover anything but the most basic equipment.
So if you're inspired watching the Paralympics, check out some of the groups out there (the Range of Motion Project is one I'm aware of) that are working to get more prosthetics to people in underserved areas and helping others benefit from the good that plastics can do.