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Your Neck
Racing Gear Hits The Streets

By: Cash Anthony

One argument made against the wearing of motorcycle helmets is that it causes injuries more severe than the ones it prevents, pointing to broken necks. The reality is that such accidents are very rare in statistical terms, but they can cause complete disability.

This point usually comes up in a discussion that focuses on government requirements, but it confuses two issues. One issue is political, related to the power of the government versus the rights of the individual. The other is a safety debate. And claims that riders are just as safe with or without helmets are demonstrably false.

But even for riders who never go out without a helmet, there's a part of the body that has, until recently, lacked any protection: the neck.

Riders who do motocross events have used chest protectors and neck braces for years, but for street riders, it's relatively new. Several manufacturers have now come out with these neck and back braces for street riders, including the HANS Device (see it here), the Leatt Brace (see it here), the so-called helmet for your neck, and BMW's Motorrad The Neck Brace System.

The inventor of the most common braces is Dr. Chris Leatt. Leatt witnessed a rider die from a cervical spine injury at an enduro event and was inspired to leave his studies in neurosurgery to develop a brace designed specifically to prevent the kind of neck injuries that killed his friend.

To test the effectiveness of the Leatt product, researchers conducted pendulum tests on inverted dummies, banging their helmeted heads into a steel block. To see a video of this test for one model, with and without the brace, go to test.

Many dealerships have several versions of the brace. I tried three of them on recently. Some doctors, including mine, are suggesting that their rider-patients look into them. I could see that fit will be important, so that you can move your chin down some and look over your shoulder without hindrance; but once the rider is used to adding this piece of gear every day - it goes on over your jacket - it should become scarcely noticeable. Unless you need it.

The Leatt company itself says that a recent survey in Motocross Action magazine asked, "What was the most significant MX product in the last decade, and why?" Most readers (about 70%) responding to the survey said "the Leatt brace". For why, one man whose boy competes in motocross said, "It gives me peace of mind." For street riders to have more peace of mind about neck protection when managing all the risks of commuting, touring or city driving would be a good thing.

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