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Thread: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

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    Post "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"


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    It appears the design of back protectors should be reconsidered.

    In 2016, a systematic review on the effectiveness of back protectors for motorcyclists found a "lack of appropriate evidence on efficacy of back protectors. Based on limited information, we are uncertain about the effects of back protectors on spinal injuries."

    Now we have newer evidence, which found the same thing and added "that the design of back protectors should be reconsidered to better protect riders from what are referred to as compression fractures (craniocaudal force), which remain the primary form of fracture regardless of the rider's characteristics, based on the data analyzed."

    In short, back protectors probably aren't protecting us as we'd hope. Manufacturers need to put more R&D into the design of back protectors to better protect us from compression fractures.

    Source: Afquir S, et al. Descriptive analysis of the effect of back protector on the prevention of vertebral and thoracolumbar injuries in serious motorcycle accident. Accid Anal Prev. February 2020.

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    Default Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    Quote Originally Posted by Zebedee View Post
    In short, back protectors probably aren't protecting us as the manufacturers told us they would.
    (Corrected for you) Which is what I said about 15 years ago, not unconnected with some spinal damage resulting from landing on my coccyx from a high side at 70-odd mph!

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    Should Get Out More Supermofo's Avatar
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    Default Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    It'd be interesting to see what could be done. Looking at 2 examples, matey in the head on crash video landing on his head and Spin landing on his arse, does the fracture/damage occur due to the weight of the body landing from height? And if so how do you stop that force? Would any workable padding help? I can't see bracing doing much good as where would it direct the force to? Would you have extra padding on the head/bum - airbags?

    It's certainly something you'd like someone to look into. My guess is that current back protectors are like a lot of other bike armour ie a bit of a compromise between effectiveness and packaging. I wear one as they are not really noticeable and 'might' help with things like internal injuries/ribs/back if I land on my back and might help stop road rash if I slid on my back.

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    Default Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    As I posted in one of the 'head on' threads, the forces have to go somewhere. This was in the context that there are concerns (Alpinestars?) that airbag jackets providing too much neck support could cause other problems. This aligns with something I heard elsewhere that the neck is an impact absorber - make it rigid and you're likely to cause brain injuries.

    IIRC (Aerostich catalogue, years ago?), many spinal injuries come from side impacts (e.g. to the shoulder), pushing the spine a way it's not designed to go. You might be able to cushion that with an airbag that extended over the shoulders, to slow and absorb impact.

    I simply don't know enough about 'mechanisms' of spinal injury to know how they occur and, from that, how they might be prevented / reduced in severity. And, of course, mitigate against one and you might increase severity of another.

    As for coccyx, my old Pro-Tek Elite jacket had a nice dense foam pad below the waist. I tested it one day after encountering a patch of ice. I landed on my @rse and was able to get up and walk away, probably more comfortably than I would have done without it

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    Question Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    Quote Originally Posted by Horse View Post
    IIRC (Aerostich catalogue, years ago?), many spinal injuries come from side impacts (e.g. to the shoulder), pushing the spine a way it's not designed to go. You might be able to cushion that with an airbag that extended over the shoulders, to slow and absorb impact.
    Horse, IIRC you said Ron Wood (?) had told you that many spinal injuries were caused by impact on the shoulder.

    If that’s true, then all those airbags without shoulder protection won’t help (i.e. D-Air and Ixon/Furygan/Held/Klim). Only Alpinestars’ Tech-Air would provide relevant protection.

    I think this issue exemplifies why more independent research is needed.

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    Should Get Out More Julian_Boolean's Avatar
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    Default Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    I had a spinal injury caused by landing on my coccyx after hitting an Astra with my R1, according to the lorry driver who witnessed the accident I went straight up about 20ft and then straight down landing on my arse, I was told by the consultant at the hospital that I was lucky to still be walking.
    I wasn't wearing a back protector, or full leathers, but neither would have helped as neither have any impact protection for the bottom of your spine, a pair of seriously padded pants would have helped, but I doubt if I'd have been able to ride a bike in them if they'd existed.
    A back protector will protect your back from impacts caused to your back, but they won't protect against impacts on the ends of the spine, but, as they won't cause any injuries, wearing one is more protection than not wearing one.

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    Default Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    Not sure if you've read the whole article but:

    RESULTS:
    The search strategy yielded 185 studies. After excluding 183 papers by title and abstract and full-text evaluation, only two small cross-sectional studies were included. Foam inserts in motorcycle jackets and non-standard clothing may possibly be associated with higher risk of injuries, while hard shell and standard back protectors may possibly be associated with a reduced rate of back and spinal injury.

    CONCLUSION:
    This systematic review highlighted lack of appropriate evidence on efficacy of back protectors. Based on limited information, we are uncertain about the effects of back protectors on spinal injuries. Further research is required to substantiate the effects of back protectors on mortality and other injuries to the back.
    To me this says that what can instinctively be seen as the benefit of a back protector holds true. If a system spreads the load and cushions the impact it will significantly reduce the risk of fractured vertebrae if you land on your back. I'm a little surprised they reckon foam inserts can lead to an increased rate of injury - even if the inserts moved out of place in an impact, at the very least the worst case should be neutral.

    But clearly a back protector only protects against one specific kind of injury - one where there is a direct impact on the flat of the back, such as from a highside or being rammed. To attempt to protect the rider from impacts in other directions (landing on head or coccyx for example) would require a completely different system. That doesn't invalidate the advantages of the current generation of back protectors though.

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    Default Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    I thought the data were significant because they suggest that it could be more important to protect the coccyx than the back. (E.g. Julian_Boolean and Spin's accidents.)

    I reckon this is useful info because I can do something about it. Alpinestars has a back protection extension for the coccyx that costs about 15. It fits on any Alpinestars KR-1, KR-R or KR-2 back protector. As the coccyx protector attaches by Velcro, it might fit some other back protectors too.

    Also, many Klim, Held and BMW trousers have a retrofittable coccyx protector. The Held coccyx protector costs about 9.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Spin Doctor View Post
    ... spinal damage resulting from landing on my coccyx from a high side at 70-odd mph!
    Quote Originally Posted by Julian_Boolean View Post
    I had a spinal injury caused by landing on my coccyx after hitting an Astra with my R1 ... a pair of seriously padded pants would have helped
    Quote Originally Posted by Horse View Post
    As for coccyx, my old Pro-Tek Elite jacket had a nice dense foam pad below the waist. I tested it one day after encountering a patch of ice. I landed on my @rse and was able to get up and walk away, probably more comfortably than I would have done without it

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    Default Re: "the design of back protectors should be reconsidered"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomcat View Post
    Not sure if you've read the whole article but:



    To me this says that what can instinctively be seen as the benefit of a back protector holds true. If a system spreads the load and cushions the impact it will significantly reduce the risk of fractured vertebrae if you land on your back. I'm a little surprised they reckon foam inserts can lead to an increased rate of injury - even if the inserts moved out of place in an impact, at the very least the worst case should be neutral.

    But clearly a back protector only protects against one specific kind of injury - one where there is a direct impact on the flat of the back, such as from a highside or being rammed. To attempt to protect the rider from impacts in other directions (landing on head or coccyx for example) would require a completely different system. That doesn't invalidate the advantages of the current generation of back protectors though.
    As well as the angle of impact, there's also the 'overall deceleration' issue to consider. You have to factor in the speed your body is moving at, and the distance over which it can decelerate. There comes a point at which the body decelerates so fast that however well you cocoon the outside, the inside suffers tearing injuries.

    There's a clear limit. Whilst riders are getting up, walking away and riding again 20 mins later on the spare bike after a MotoGP highside, top notch body armour doesn't prevent TT fatalities when the rider hits a wall.

    I'm convinced that manufacturers have been flogging back protectors (and body armour generally) knowing full-well they provide little on-road protection in the kinds of crashes that happen to road riders. Liz de Rome's investigation from a few years back concluded that they actually functions as extra abrasion resistance when the outer garment failed in a slide.

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