So what is all the fuss about neck braces? Do they really work? Who’s wearing them? And who’s making them?
Neck braces hit the dirt bike scene back around 2007 and riders are still torn as to whether or not they should wear one, and if they actually help. One thing is for certain, with so many neck and back injuries plaguing the riders in our sport it’s a positive step forward to have companies like Leatt investing money in research and development to create a product that can potentially minimize damage to the spine and spinal cord.
Although there still seems to be much debate about the effectiveness of such safety gear as the Leatt Brace, with some riders believing the braces can actually cause more damage in some cases. Others want ‘scientific proof’ or a guarantee that neck braces will minimize spinal damage before they fork out a few hundred dollars for something that may or may not prevent injury.
It seems KTM and BMW believe in, and endorse the Leatt Brace (click to see it on Amazon). KTM had their Leatt Braces re-branded with their own logo a while back and had a lot of their team riders wear them. The Leatt Brace has also been accepted for use in all NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) classes via it’s SFI 38.1 certification.
Loads of pro riders are wearing them too. Riders such as Ryan Villopoto, Dean Wilson and Darryl King are flying around the track with these human collars on. Keep in mind at the pro level a lot of these riders have to make the decision to either wear a brace which carries additional weight, restricts some movement and can elevate core temperature, or go without and reap the benefits of having minimal restriction to allow them to ride faster and longer. This is not a concern for your average rider who races for fun.
Trey Canard thanked his lucky stars – and his neck brace – when another rider literally landed on top of his head from a triple jump in a horrific accident during a supercross event. He miraculously had no neck injury and believes it was due to wearing a brace.
Neck braces are not only used for motocross and enduro but they’re also being worn for use in racing cars, jet boats, super-motard, go-karts and other types of extreme motorsport where the risk of neck injury is high.
Although quite technical in design, neck braces are quite simple in functionality. Their purpose is to restrict the amount of movement or travel in the neck during an accident. They achieve this by resting on your shoulders like a collar around your neck and forming a kind of base support for your helmet, so if your head is jarred to one side in an extreme event the brace prevents your neck from tweaking too far and breaking. They’re also designed with ‘failure points’ so the brace gives way when under certain pressure (caused by an accident) to help cushion the blow to the rider.
They have been designed to fit comfortably with most types of body armor and helmets, and the Leatt Brace Team claim that “one lap or 5 minutes is usually all it takes to get used to the brace.”
The Leatt Brace is the original, and arguably the most tested and thoroughly designed brace on the market. They have many different styles available for kids and adults. They’re made out of injected glass-reinforced nylon and/or carbon fiber and Kevlar. Other players in the market like Alpinestars, Atlas and EVS also make their own neck collars.
The big question.. Should I wear a neck brace? You’ll have to make that call as you do with any other safety gear you choose to wear. My thoughts.. You don’t ask for guarantees and scientific evidence for most of your other safety gear so why do you need it for this? Anything that restricts extreme neck movement surely has to be a good thing because the thought of playing out the rest of your days in a wheelchair, or sipping out of a straw is a dark and scary place for anyone.
For a more in-depth read into laboratory testing, studies and research statistics on the Leatt Brace check out this story over at Dirt Rider.
And hear what Ricky Carmichael’s trainer Aldon Baker says about ’em in this interview.. Racer X
Do You Own A Neck Brace? Share Your Experience With Us.
What brand of neck brace do you own? Is it comfortable? Has it saved you already from injury? Do you think it is a good investment or just a gimmick? Help others who are ‘on the fence’ to make a decision to buy one or not.