News | Jan 2, 2020

VA invention helps disabled players enjoy, rehab through billiards

Billiards is a popular game for rehabilitation and the VA is seeking a company interested in commercializing the invention.

Erick Requadt/Air Force

Rehabilitation experts at the Department of Veterans Affairs have invented a rolling bridge for billiards so more disabled people can play–a U.S. patent application was made public last week.

In contrast to a traditional bridge that is attached to a second cue, the VA’s rolling bridge slips over and grips the player’s primary cue, providing a steady rest for one-handed shooting.

VA photo of the rolling pool bridge.

The small, 3D-printed device, which has gone through three prototyping cycles, was invented by Seth Hills, a rehabilitation engineer at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, and Nicole Shuman, an adaptive sports recreational therapist.

Both veterans and non-veterans participate in recreational therapy and adaptive sports among which pool is popular, but the physical requirements for holding a pool cue and shooting preclude some from playing.

“Nicole came up with the concept by putting a toy train on the pool stick to see if it would work, and it did,” said Hills. “She asked us to further develop the idea.”

Malik Jones, a Navy Corpsman partially paralyzed by a brain injury, plays pool using the rolling bridge. The VA has applied for a U.S. patent on the device and is ready to license the design to a business or entrepreneur for manufacturing and sales. (VA photo)

Business Opportunity

The VA’s patent application was made public on Dec. 26, 2019 (download below), which marks the invention’s availability for commercialization via a license agreement.

In coordination with the VA’s Technology Transfer Program, TechLink is seeking entrepreneurs and companies to license, manufacture, and sell the rolling pool bridge.

Gary Bloomer, senior technology manager at TechLink, has been in recent communication with the VA tech transfer team and is helping prospective companies identify and review the potential for manufacturing the rolling bridge.

As the VA’s partnership intermediary, TechLink’s services and consultations are provided to businesses and entrepreneurs at no cost.

“The rolling pool bridge is simple but practical and problem-solving,” Bloomer said. “Other products available have some drawbacks that make this attractive for disabled players.”


Companies interested in learning more about the VA’s extensive patent portfolio can contact Gary Bloomer at gary.bloomer@montana.edu or 406-994-7786.