With Marshall and Fonseca injured last year, and more amateur riders suffering neck injuries this year, more people are talking about safety issues in our sport. While the debates are raging on the Internet forums, one thing we can all agree on is that appropriate safety precautions are a must in motocross. While we may give guys like Davi Millsaps a hard time for their neck donuts, the reality is safety equipment in the sport is progressing, and riders like Millsaps might be paving the way for an increased awareness of the need for protective gear.
One company that has really started making a name for itself in this area is Leatt, and their moto-specific Leatt-Brace. The company is based out of South Africa, but recently brought Geoff Patterson on-board to head up their U.S. distribution. After talking with Geoff a few times out at local tracks, we asked him to fill us in on all the details…
TWMX: Geoff thanks for taking time to answer some questions. What can you tell us about motocross-related neck/spine injuries?
LEATT: The occurrence of neck injuries in our sport has been on the rise. This is largely due to the advancing technology of the bikes, fierce competition, and more extreme tracks. With this, protective equipment had to evolve. Until now, the only area that has not really been addressed is the cervical spine or neck. Ironically, this is the only part of your body that can usually only be damaged once. It is important for people to realize that traumatic neck injury is a very difficult injury to rehabilitate, if you are even able to.
Do you feel the neck injury issue could have a long-term negative effect on the growth or popularity of motocross?
Yes! I believe that with the growing popularity of the Internet, and instant information, we will start hearing of many more people that are getting injured. In the last year alone, there have been many riders that we probably would have never known about if it were not for instant worldwide information. If that trend continues, I believe people will start looking towards other sports that are far less dangerous. I have spoken to many people that have said that they were thinking of giving up the sport, but now feel like they have added protection with the brace.
You told me a story about a mom that purchased a Leatt, and just a few days later her son went through a horrible crash, but didn’t suffer any neck injuries. She felt it was because of the brace. Can you tell us that story again?
Sometimes in our lives, if we are lucky enough, we have moments that we feel like we did something to make the world a better place. This was one of them. I met the Grecko family through Rob Healy of N-Style. Their 15 year-old boy, Nick, is a very fast rider. When we got our shipment in, they were one of the first to get the brace. About three weeks later I got an email showing a picture of Nick with some bruises on his shoulders. He had a pretty bad crash in his first race with the brace on. I was told he was ok, so I really didn’t think much more of it. While at A Day In The Dirt over Thanksgiving, his mom brought the brace to me and asked me if I could fix it. Puzzled, I took it in my hands only to find that the rear thoracic support had actually broken out. At that moment, I shuttered thinking of what might have happened if he didn’t have the brace on. It was actually broken in two separate places! I believe the brace played a big part in making sure Nick was ok. More importantly so does his mom.
The Leatt Brace has been getting a lot of press lately. What separates the brace from other more traditional “neck rolls”?
Everything. The Leatt-Brace limits all forms of head and neck movement in the event of an accident. It is designed to withstand great impacts and distribute energy through alternate load paths. By changing the way energy travels through the helmet, into the brace, and eventually onto your body, your neck is taken out of the equation all together. Traditional neck rolls are made of foam, and most of them only cover the back of the neck. Most neck injuries happen because the neck is pushed forward toward the sternum. This is called hyperflexion. Foam is collapsible, and will not absorb much energy before it is completely crushed. At that point, I believe the traditional neck rolls become completely ineffective.
How did you guys end up getting involved with the Leatt?
I was in San Diego in the riders’ section the day that James Marshall got hurt. I was sitting next to my son, and we both saw it happen. I knew instantly that he was really hurt. My fears were confirmed when Doc Bodnar motioned to Red Flag the race. At that moment I decided that enough was enough. I came back to my shop and started drawing some things to help in the event of hyperextension (rearward head movement). A good friend of mine, Jason McCune saw what I was doing and forwarded me the Leatt-Brace website. Within minutes I was emailing them telling them my story and that I wanted to represent the product in the USA. After nine months of negotiating with Dr. Chris Leatt and his team, they chose me to head up the United States Distribution Center. Along with Jason, we have been working tirelessly to get the Leatt name out there on a massive scale.
Give us the vital info on the brace; cost, sizes, colors, etc…
Right now the Sport Model GPX brace can be purchased. It is made of carbon fiber upper tables, and fiberglass reinforced composite plastic lowers. The composite pieces are silver. The retail price is $595.00.
The Club Model GPX will be available in January. It is all fiberglass reinforced composite plastic. It is available in black. The retail price is $395.00.
The Pro Model GPX is all carbon fiber. The retail price is $995.00.
There is one size brace for adults. The brace comes with many different adjustments within the box to fit small, medium, and large riders.
The most frequently asked question right now is when will the kids brace be available? We will have them around December 20th. It will adjust to riders from as young as five up to 15.
Thanks again, Geoff. One last question; where can folks get more info?
Just call us at 1.800.691.3314. We can answer any question you may have. Or, you can order on line at www.leatt-brace.com.