Our neck is a proportionately slender portion of our anatomy. While it may not often be injured by direct impact in a motorcycle accident, it is at significant risk during any impact, and injuries can be severe.
Why Wear a Neck Brace?
Peggy from Rev’It answered a few of our questions regarding why a neck brace is recommended.
Kris: What are the potential risks of riding without a neck brace?
Peggy: Overall the risks are to do with spinal injury:
- Compression of the spine from landing on the top your head
- Over extension of your neck from excessive force in one particular direction
- A whiplash effect from a rapid snap in the neck
- Over-rotation of the neck
Kris: How do these injuries typically happen?
Peggy: It’s not so much about how they typically happen, but when and why they are prone occur. A freak fall on top of your head while stationary and from a height of just over one meter could be enough to cause such a compression injury.
The risk of such an injury is increased due to the type of terrain being traversed and hence the likelihood of coming off the bike onto unpredictable terrain. That risk is reduced by wearing a neck brace. Fatigue is also an issue and the brace helps to reduce the risk of injury when muscles are tired and weaker.
Kris: Are some body types more at risk than others?
Peggy: No, but having a very strong core, neck and torso would be of added benefit in preventing injury.
Kris: How does a neck brace protect from these injuries?
Peggy: It dissipates impact forces and prevents over extension/rotation of the neck in any one particular direction.
A Riders Perspective
We talked with our readers, and found that there are mixed feelings about neck braces. Judith offers the following perspective: “I choose to wear a neck brace while off roading because once I had neck pain for weeks after a harmless fall. So I decided that wearing one is less ‘pain’ than problems with the neck or even worse. And just some days later I was driving with my helmet on at full speed and ran into a hidden branch. Without the neck brace my head would have been smashed to the back. There is no way to think what damage that would have done to me!
“I currently only wear the brace while offroading and not on street tours. While offroading I am challenging myself where there is a high risk of falling. With the full gear on (neck brace, knee protection, MX boots, full upper-body protection) I feel like I can concentrate on the ‘mission’ ahead instead of being afraid of being injured. So my head is free for the task and for the fun.”
We were curious which brace she chose, and what it is like to wear. “I wear an EVS race collar for different reasons. It is not as expensive as other competition collars, but it offers far more protection than the simple foam collar. It is absolutely easy and quick to put it on, as you wear it over the shirt/jacket. It is easy to adjust and still firm. At the beginning, of course, it felt a bit clumsy. But my fear that it will disturb you while riding was absolutely false. After a while, I stopped noticing I was wearing it.”
So, What Do I Need to Know?
Steph from Leatt and Peggy from Rev’It gave us the following information to help you begin your research into neck braces.
Kris: How would a neck brace integrate with my existing gear?
Steph: Leatt makes a couple versions of the neck brace to help integrate with all gear. The GPX range is made to wear close to the body. It can be placed under body armour/chest protection. For those that prefer to wear a neck brace over their body protection and/or jacket we have our STX range. All Leatt body protection is made to integrate with our neck braces. There is an elastic brace on strap across the shoulder of our body protection that stretches. When placed along the portion of the neck brace that rests on the trapezius muscle it will hold the brace in place. All Leatt neck braces are adjustable to fit with all types of armour and apparel.
Peggy: Suitable ADV gear will have harness attachments to accommodate the next brace. Please refer to our Sand III Jacket and this link for more information. The harness is not included, but is optional and can be worn with any jacket.
Kris: Aren’t they hot, heavy, or uncomfortable?
Peggy: Ours weighs 800g maximum with that weight distributed around your shoulders so it’s not too heavy, it’s designed in such a way as to minimise heat and although it will take some getting used to when wearing it the first time. It would not be considered uncomfortable once it is fitted correctly and the rider acclimates to it.
Steph: Our current model GPX neck braces weigh 600g-790g and STX neck braces weigh 690g-790g. This is under 2 lbs, therefore are lightweight. If the neck brace is fit properly it will be comfortable and almost unnoticeable. Hot? I haven’t heard anyone mention this.
Kris: Do I need them if I am just riding gravel roads, not doing jumps, riding mostly street with some dirt, etc? How does a neck brace help for Adventure Riders?
Peggy: It’s advisable to wear a brace if you’re riding on unstable terrain where your likelihood of coming off and landing on unpredictable objects or at unpredictable angles is significantly increased. Wearing one reduces the risk of injury in what would be considered more risky and unpredictable terrain.
Steph: We would recommend wearing a neck brace for any style of riding, whether it be 5 mph or 100 mph and wearing a full face helmet. A small tip over could still cause a major injury. It is dependent upon the crash and where the impact takes place.
Photos utilized with permission by Leatt and Judith Seeberger