Wearing a neck brace while riding is a highly debated topic. Some people won’t ride with them because they have been blamed for collarbone breaks in the past. Some riders won’t ride without them because of the added neck and spine protection they offer. A neck brace isn’t a must have like a helmet and goggles, but if you want to be completely protected in the event of a crash, you should be wearing one.
There hasn’t been any double blind studies proving the effectiveness of neck braces yet. Some riders don’t want to wear them until they see that proof. On the other hand, some professional riders have been using them on the track more often. Neck braces are also used more and more in car racing, go-karts, dirt bike racing, and ATV racing. It seems that with new innovation in neck brace technology, more and more riders are starting to wear them.
Still, the option of wearing a neck brace is up to you. I personally only wear one if I’m going to be trying jumps or tricks that I’m not really good at yet. If you do decide to wear one, I recommend the Leatt DBX 5.5 Neck Brace (link to Amazon). I like this neck brace because it’s all around easy to use. It has a push button for opening and closing it, and it has an emergency quick release system built in. This neck brace is super durable and fits nicely with the Leatt 4.5 Chest Protector (link to Amazon) that I use. It is CE certified and I like how easy to clean it is.
How A Neck Brace Helps
The main purpose of a neck brace is to limit the amount your neck moves during a crash or accident. It does this by working together with your helmet. They sit under the helmet like a restrictive base, only allowing your helmet to move so far in any direction. Any good neck brace will have failure points that allow the brace to break in certain areas under enough pressure. That is helpful because it will soften the blow from a crash.
The Leatt brace is the original neck brace, and is one of the most tested neck braces you can buy. They’re mostly made out of carbon fiber and kevlar, or reinforced nylon. They’re designed to fit nicely with most body armor and helmets.
Over bending your neck or spine can result in spinal cord or spine injury. Your spine has 24 vertebrae, supported by ligaments and disks. Your spinal cord however, is just nerve cells and nerve fibers mixed with cerebral fluid. The neck brace is meant to prevent both of these types of injuries, spinal cord injuries and spine injuries. By over stretching your neck in any direction or getting hit by an impact, you could tear ligaments and fracture a vertebrae, or worse, tear nerve fibers in your spinal cord.
Is There A Downside?
There has been plenty of concern as to whether a neck brace could help or actually cause more damage. Leatt has a lab setup where they test their neck braces in a variety of scenarios to help answer this question. Maybe a neck brace is helpful is some situations, but more harmful in others.
One of the possible dangerous scenarios involves the strut of the brace that rests on your back. It has been questioned that the neck brace could save your neck but transfer the impact from a crash to the strut sitting in the middle of the riders back, which could cause a thoracic spine injury. Really, the strut is designed to keep the neck brace in position during a crash. This is where the fracture point comes into play, the strut is designed to break away before causing any damage to the riders middle spine.
Some riders have questioned the ability to tuck and roll out of a crash while wearing the neck brace. They claim that your mobility would be limited by the neck brace and may affect your ability to safely exit a crash. This is an interesting claim, however, while wearing a neck brace you are still fully capable of raising your arms over your head to do a tuck and roll.
Another threat is that if your helmet gets hooked over the edge of the neck brace, it could pull on your neck with more leverage. If you have the Leatt neck brace, they are designed to not allow a helmet to reach over the edge and get hooked.
Riders have also questioned if there is a possible collarbone threat. Maybe wearing the neck brace actually increases the chances of a collarbone injury. Leatt has confirmed however, that there is no pressure directed onto the collarbone by the brace. This is because the neck brace is designed with a clavicle relief area to prevent just this situation.
There are plenty of questions about whether a neck brace does more harm than good. But after doing extensive research, it looks like they are a helpful addition to our normal riding gear. There is not enough studies and evidence to say for sure one way or the other. But the evidence we do have so far, is leaning more towards saying we should wear them.
Again, I only wear mine when doing new jumps or tricks I’m not familiar with yet, but the decision is up to you.
Leatt isn’t the only company making neck braces anymore. Alpinestars, EVS, and Atlas are just some of the companies joining in on creating and testing neck braces. It makes sense too, neck injuries have always been a problem in off road sports like ATV riding and dirt bike riding. These companies are trying to take steps to reduce the number of neck and back injuries, and that’s a good sign.
One of the neck braces I found made by Leatt is actually a chest protector and neck brace combo. The Leatt Fusion 3.0 Vest found here on Amazon. This is a great option for anyone worried that their neck brace and chest protector won’t match up or feel comfortable to wear. Completely CE certified for torso and neck protection together. This piece of gear is a bit more expensive than just getting a chest protector, but you’re getting a neck brace built in. The Fusion Vest comes in a variety of sizes in either black or white color.
EVS makes a neck brace in either adult of youth sizes that has been getting some pretty great reviews lately. The EVS Sport R4 Race Collar (link to Amazon) is made of a hard molded upper surface, with a foam liner for comfort and extra impact absorption. I don’t know how well this one fits with a chest protector because I’ve never tried this one on myself. But based off the reviews, it seems like people like it.
Alpinestars makes a couple options, the Bans Pro Neck Support and the Carbon Bionic Neck Support on Amazon. The carbon bionic neck brace is made of high quality materials, but it’s a bit expensive for a neck brace with less features and safety than the Leatt. They do offer a 1 year warranty on manufacturer defects, but a good neck brace should last you 5-10 years.
There are a few different options for neck braces now a days, and they are becoming more acceptable and being used more and more even by the pros. I stick with my recommendation of the Leatt DBX 5.5 Neck Brace, it fits me comfortably with my chest protector on, and I get used to wearing it after about 5 minutes.