We have largely based this article around the Leatt neck brace as from what we have learned they have spent the most time, money and energy on creating the safest neck brace on the market.
The Leatt brace is the creation of Dr. Chris Leatt. A rider, father and inventor whilst studying to specialize in neurosurgery assisted in the treatment of a victim of a tragic motorcycle enduro accident. A fellow rider, Alan Selby, died 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, where as a motorcycle rider is only protected by the clothing and armour they can wear making the task much more difficult.
In the early innovation of the motorcycle 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 Bio Medical 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.
The main criteria to determine a neck brace’s value is Reduction of Forces, 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 being to reduce the number of injuries and also the severity when they do occur.
The team created a product which works by using Alternative Load Path Technology to reduce extreme forces in a number of directions, to redirect the forces of a crash from the head through to the body whilst supporting the neck.
The Leatt 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.