The MXstore Neck Brace Buying Guide
One of the most significant advances in motocross protection in the past decade, the Neck Brace changed the game as we know it. Backed by years of some of the most in-depth and expansive research you'll ever see behind a piece of protective equipment, the first neck braces on the market were met with some hesitation from many riders, as rumours circulated around just how effective they truly could be. We decided to dive into the world of neck braces and see what all the fuss was about for ourselves, and after sifting through all the research, reviews, technologies and rumours, we found ourselves settled on one simple idea - these things save lives.
When the very first current generation neck braces hit the market back in 2003, there was very little information available regarding just how a neck brace worked, how it was developed and what benefits there were for a rider to wear one. The lack of clarity surrounding just what the product offered led to a lot of people disregarding the importance of a neck brace. Fast forward to current day, and neck braces are now widely regarded as one of the more crucial pieces of protective equipment for any dirt bike rider, largely thanks to the wealth of information on offer detailing how the neck brace works and the protection it can offer.
From the Beginning
The Leatt brand was the first to introduce the world to the current generation neck brace. The very first Leatt brace was the creation of Dr. Chris Leatt, a rider, father and inventor who fused his profession with his passion to make the world of dirt bike riding a safer place. Whilst studying to specialize in neurosurgery, he assisted in the treatment of a victim of a tragic dirt bike accident, who unfortunately passed away on the track from a suspected neck injury.
From there Dr Leatt began researching and developing a brace similar to what race car drivers had been wearing for some time. The major difference being a race car driver is strapped into a seat with support for their head and neck built in which prevents the neck from being subject to the severe forces during a crash, whereas a motorcycle rider is only protected by the clothing and body armour they can wear making the task much more difficult. In the early innovation of the neck brace, Dr Leatt had no standard against which to test quality and performance, no theory to guide the design and no practical testing methods to measure the results.
Dr Leatt’s research taught him that 60% of all fatal spine injuries are injuries of the neck, the vertebrae in your neck are much smaller and weaker than the larger vertebrae lower in your back and the cause of many spinal injuries are the result of the rider’s head coming in contact with the ground from a number of different angles and the forces of the sudden stop travelling through the body, particularly the neck of the rider is what causes injury.
In the early days, Dr Leatt partnered with KTM and BMW and hired a team of BioMedical Engineers to perform complex testing of neck braces. Using the same technology as major car companies with crash test dummies but with 24 neck sensors (a Motorcycle Anthropomorphic Test Device Neck) to record data, the team developed test rigs and methods that allow comprehensive in-house testing and exploration of product performance. The team worked on a range of real life scenarios similar to what might be encountered in a number of motorcycle, bicycle, kart, automotive racing and accident’s in other sports to collect enough data to develop a product which would offer the rider the most protection possible in a variety of scenarios.
In our current market, other brands have followed the path laid down by the Leatt company, and there's now a multitude of high quality neck brace options on offer, at varying price points to suit all riders. With such a wealth of products available to purchase, there is something available for everyone. With our high emphasis on the importance of safety for anyone throwing their leg over a dirt bike, here at MXstore we highly recommend adding a neck brace to your gear bag before your next ride.
The Purpose of the Neck Brace
The main criteria to determine a neck brace’s value is the reduction of forces, whether rotational or a direct impact. Similar to a helmet, a neck brace will not prevent every impact from causing injury, as every piece of safety gear has its limitations. The goal of the neck brace is to reduce the number of injuries and also the severity when they unfortunately do occur. The neck brace is designed to reduce the extreme forces in a number of directions, and then redirect the forces of a crash from the head through to the body whilst still supporting the neck. The neck brace acts by reducing Hyperextension (bending) of the neck in all directions with a padded helmet rim strike area for front, rear and lateral movements.
This reduces the severity of the following impacts:
- Hyperflexion – The most common neck injury type where the head is pushed back excessively, up to 40% of neck injuries also involve compression.
- Posterior Hypertranslation – Pushing the head backwards and also bending back.
- Posterior Lateral Hypertranslation – Pushing the head back and to the side, rotational injuries.
- Anterolateral Hyperflexion – Pushing the head forward and to the side, rotational injuries.
- Axial Loading – Landing head first causing the spine to be compressed and pushed forward, this is the hardest movement to provide protection for, but the Leatt brace still offers up to 17% reduction of forces and offers support for the head and neck post-crash if an injury has been sustained.
How a Neck Brace Works
The neck brace works in a few different ways, firstly acting as a support collar around your neck which physically prevents the rider from being able to bend their head and neck past a certain point in all directions. The helmet first comes in contact with the padded helmet rim strike area which then transfers the force of the impact through the neck brace into the padded load dispersion areas which are located at the front and rear of the brace.
The front padded load dispersion area transfers the energy to the rider’s pectoral muscles and the rear load dispersion area transfers energy to the top shoulder muscles either side of the spine. The padding also helps reduce some of the impacts to the riders head as the controlled impact transfer reduces rapid brain deceleration helping prevent the severity of brain injuries.
The Myths and Misconceptions
Since the creation of the neck brace there have been a number of rumours suggesting that wearing a brace can actually cause other injuries, or simply cause you to have a spinal cord injury in a different place. Read on for some clarification on some of these myths and misconceptions.
Myth #1 – A neck brace can break your collar bone
A very believable myth and in some cases plausible as when fitted incorrectly a neck brace could hit your collar bone during a crash, but a correctly fitted brace does not sit anywhere near your collarbones as the brace is manufactured with collarbone relief areas to prevent contact in this area.
If you look at the data relating to injuries in the sport, well over 90% of collarbones break outwards, which is caused from crashing with an outstretched arm, a helmet rim coming in contact with the collarbone or landing on your shoulder forcing it back. The amount of collarbones breaking inwards has not significantly changed even since the introduction of neck braces and you are 50 times more likely to fracture your collarbone riding MX or SX than having a spinal injury.
Myth #2 – The thoracic strut can injure your spine lower down your back
The thoracic strut of the Leatt brace has load dispersion points which transfer force to the top shoulder muscles and not the spine itself. The thoracic strut has also undergone superior rear breakaway strep testing and is designed to break away around 30 times less than the level of pressure it takes to fracture vertebrae so the possibility of this causing injury is minimal.
Statistics have shown that the most common spinal injury (without neck braces being worn) is the mid to lower Thoracic region as this is where the back curves/ flexes the most, the fact that the Thoracic strut of a Leatt brace rests in this region is irrelevant and testing has shown that the strut actually helps prevent excessive “buckling forces” of the most curved portion of the thoracic spine. The fact is that even with a neck brace fitted spinal injuries can occur, just as brain injuries can still occur even with the most expensive helmets on the market.
Other facts surrounding neck braces
- The collarbone is the weakest bone in the human body
- Despite rumours, there are no recorded deaths as a result of wearing a neck brace, there are signed doctors reports listed on the Leatt Brace site to prove this fact.
- There are pages of testimonials and videos on the Leatt brace website from riders who will credit the Leatt brace for saving their neck and in some cases their life!
- In 2009 Leatt received the SAMIA Award for Outstanding Safety Achievement.
- Winner of the 2009 Innovations Award at Eurobike.
- Readers of Motocross Action Magazine voted the Leatt neck brace the “Product of the Decade.”
- Leatt has their own testing facility in Cape Town South Africa named the Leatt Lab, Leatt’s home of research and development and a team of medical engineers.
Should my kid wear a neck brace?
You might be wondering if your kid should be wearing a neck brace for riding and racing motocross, and the answer comes down to personal choice after taking the information in this article into consideration. Neck braces are not compulsory in motocross or enduro racing, and majority of brands offer a model in youth sizes. Youth neck braces still offer the same protective features of their adult counterparts, however they're designed for the smaller frames of mini bike racers.
You might see that not all kids are wearing neck braces at your local event, and as we said, it comes down to personal preference as to whether your kid should or shouldn't wear one. A neck brace is an additional piece of kids protective gear, and if it fits within your budget, we recommend getting your grom fitted in one to give you extra peace of mind when they're out ripping motos.
Most neck braces available today are compatible with most chest protectors and pressure suits on the market without the need to modify the armour to fit. Many brands have also developed a full range of chest protectors, back protectors and pressure suits which have been created to compliment the neck brace for a comfortable fit and superior stability, keeping the brace in the correct position even during the most intense riding conditions.
Correct fitment of a neck brace is critical to achieving maximum protection, selecting the correct combination of adjustment pins, thoracic strut angle and (for certain models) setting the height adjustable front and rear tables to a position that suits your body shape and the size, length and range-of-motion of your neck, is detailed in the user manual.
There are 3 simple ways to check whether your brace fits correctly:
- The brace should fit snug, but not too tight. When you lift your arms, the brace should comfortably move up with your arms and drop back onto your shoulders when you drop your arms. If the brace stays up, it is too tight and should be adjusted.
- You should be able to comfortably fit your fingers between your back and the thoracic member of the brace. If you can’t fit your fingers between your brace and your back, it is too tight and should be adjusted. If your whole hand fits, it is too loose and should be adjusted.
- Finally, when pressing down on the front or rear table of the brace, it should not rock back and forth excessively on your shoulders. If this occurs, then the brace is too loose and should be adjusted. If no movement occurs, then the brace is too tight and should be adjusted.
For Online Customers
Most neck braces on the market are adjustable so 2-3 models will fit 99% of the riding population. A simple chest measurement taken around the chest around 1 inch below the armpits will give you the correct measurement.
Braces usually come in the following sizes:
- Kids/ Youth = Up to 70cm or 28” chest measurement.
- Small/ Medium = From 70cm – 90cm or 28” – 37” chest measurement
- Large/ Extra Large = From 90cm – 122cm or 37” – 48” Chest measurement
Popular neck braces from leading safety brands include:
- Leatt neck braces
- Atlas neck braces
- EVS neck braces
- Alpinestars neck braces
- Leatt GPX 6.5 neck brace
- Leatt GPX 5.5 neck braces
- Leatt GPX 4.5 neck braces
If you are ever unsure on which armour is compatible with which brace or anything to do with neck braces and correct fitment don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at MXstore
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