Motocross head injury study launched

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Concussion graphicAnnouncement at RacerX Online regarding a new cooperative program between Mayo Clinic of Rochester, MN and Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, MN to study motocross injuries – specifically concussion.

For more detail read the entire post at the link above, but here is an excerpt:

In an unprecedented move Spring Creek MX Park, home to the Millville National Pro Motocross race, has teamed up with the Mayo Clinic of Rochester to study motocross injuries – specifically concussions.  In a study done at the Mayo Clinic last year, it was discovered that roughly thirty percent of the injuries in motocross are concussions.  The goals  of the study are to study concussion occurrence and set up protocols for  returning to racing safely. The factor that makes this so ground breaking is the fact that this study team consists of an old but avid motocross racer, orthopedic surgeons that are interested in the sport,  and one of the countries’ leading concussion specialists…

This is great news. For far too long we — riders, racers, managers, promoters, and fans — have simply accepted injuries in the sport and, it seems to me, purposely avoided looking at them too closely due to a misguided  fear of liability.

I just don’t see how that’s a viable approach in this day and age, given all the technology and tools available to us. I’m very excited to see this new effort launched. Let’s hope there are more.

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Comments

  1. I’ve not raced mx for years, so my comments might not be totally reliable. We Swedes started the ‘fashion’ of using protective gear when racing (other than the helmet, of course). First came the famous mouthshield, designed for ice-hockey as teeth injuries in that sport were rife, and now on the rise in mx, too. 2-strokes, especially the new big-bore 360-400’s tended to rip huge trenches in the track on full throttle, chucking-up rocks in your face. The old 4-strokes didn’t do that. When Håkan Andersson needed support for his slow-to-heal broken leg Rubin Helmin suggested the new leg and knee-protectors for ice-hockey might do the job. Håkan, an ex-ice-hockey player himself, then looked at the new chest-shields being designed by Jofa. Real hockey-players thought all this protective gear very, er… female, but their injuries were getting worse, and very expensive for the insurance companies, who insisted something be done. Håkan decided he liked using the Jofa equipment for mx, it stopped the stones and helped lessen the bruising during crashing. I took a Polariod of him with the new protective gear in early ’72, but he has it. All the guys gaffawed at all this – but not to his face. Tough guy, ok? By the end of the season ALL riders were using the ice-hockey gear, and injuries fell noticably. Helmin said something important, “Do remember that this protective gear may just move the point of injury somewhere else.” My leg-shield save me from a broken-leg, once, I felt it bend. But it didn’t go, the taped-on shield stiffening the leg enough. I did my knee, instead. Luckily nothing ripped, but I was off work for 2 weeks and had a stiff knee for several months. I was lucky, better a broken leg than a buggered knee. But the knee-cup on the shield save my knee later when my leg trapped inbetween the forks and the tank during a high-speed crash, splitting the plastic cup but not my kneecap. Horses for courses. Helmets: they banned porridge-pots in the late 60’s. Our jet-helmets were very basic, merely a shell with some cork in it, later the white stuff (frigolit in Swedish, don’t know what it’s called in English). They were small in diameter, fitting the head closely, and were very light. Later helmets were much bigger and HEAVY. My last one was a Malherbre Replica full-face AGV. And I hated it. The old helmets sat like glue on the head, this one wobbled all over the place. I don’t know about today’s helmets, but they seem big and heavy. Don’t like full-face mx-helmets anyway, dangerous in a crash, I was there the day Dick Nilsson was killed by a Malherbe helmet. These lock-in-place ones for the road look ok, though, practical. But heavy, though. The same man who designed the inertia seatbelt and child-seat designed the first real bicycle-helmet, which was later re-designed as a moped-helmet and then motorcycle helmet, made and sold by Meno in Finland. I’ve used one on the road, touring Europe on my Vespa. Aldman, the surgeon who designed it, was adement, his exhaustive research said a helmet had to be light and fit the head well, and as small a diameter as possible, this to minimise twisting injuries to the neck and concussion caused by repeated thumping along the road-surface, each thump compressing the liner to the point it stops working. He designed a complicated composite ‘white-stuff’ liner for the helmet that compensated for the lack of thickness, but this was never used in Meno production, too expensive. Good helmet, you could ride all day and not feel you had it on. But it wasn’t designed for mx, no room for the goggles (it used a simple face-shield) it fitted very low on the brow; the area around the brow, the top of the ears, and in a line around the back of the head being the sensitive area to protect. I would suggest someone look at the Meno (no longer in business, I think) look at the special liner Aldman designed, modify the helmet so it can use goggles, and maybe thus help cut down on the apparent rise in concussion-injuries in mx. I suspect it’s mostly the idiot way they ride today causing them to crash in a way we didn’t before. The protective gear used today might be wrongly designed too, too stiff maybe, designed for looks and not to spread the blows in the right direction. For it’s all about money today, intelligent design and manufacture has often gone out the window, in my view.

    • I agree with you on many points, not the least of which is that several (if not many) potential improvements to head gear have gone unused or undeveloped due to cost or bureaucratic issues.

      I also agree that protective gear can do only three things (in decreasing order of effectiveness):
      Distribute the force of impact over a larger area
      Displace the force to a different body part
      Absorb the force

      Helmets can’t really displace the force, so they can only try to absorb it and distribute it more widely thus slowing the impact.

      I would disagree on the quality of head gear available today. Kevlar and carbon fiber have reduced the weight quite a bit, and I find the modern full-face helmets to be quite comfortable. They are light, they fit well around the head, and they offer good protection. But there is a big difference in quality and protection between the cheap and the expensive, and there remains a legitimate debate about the best design to prevent head injuries in dirt bike accidents. Sizing is often a problem as the cheaper helmets use a single shell size that makes the helmet both larger than necessary and fill the gap with extra padding which does nothing to prevent injury.

      One good thing I see is the young riders out there often have on the better brands of helmets. I rarely see a cheap-o brand on a little kid anymore. The parents appear to be taking the risk of head injury seriously. Not all, but many. That’s no small thing as little kids can outgrow a helmet every year or two and the good ones cost $500+.

      Having said that, there is little doubt the increased speeds, the resulting inertia, the air time, and the increased incidence of track obstacles that create near-perpendicular surfaces into which you can be thrown have increased the severity and number of injuries. Being plowed head-first into a 6-foot wall of dirt at 40-50 mph is a hard thing to protect against.