Impact protectors (or body armour)
An impact protector is a shield worn within clothing that is designed to absorb and/or spread the energy of a blow to the body.
Do impact protectors work?
Impact protectors cannot save you in a major impact but may reduce the severity of an injury. They work by slowing down the rate of transfer of the forces in an impact to a less damaging or non-damaging level. This is called impact “attenuation”. You may still break your leg, but it is more likely to be a simple fracture that is easier to treat compared to a complex fracture (Otte et al, 2002).
Impact protectors may also prevent some apparently minor injuries such as chipped elbow, shoulder or knee bones, which can be more debilitating and require longer rehabilitation than fractures.
In order to be effective, it is essential that impact protectors are fitted and held in place so that they will not move during a crash.
There are two European Standards for motorcyclist’s impact protectors, one for limb and shoulder protectors and the other for back protectors.
The limb and shoulder protectors (EN 1621-1) are designed to provide some protection against injury in impacts with the road surface, but offer little protection from other vehicles or objects such as poles.
There are six shapes, each designed to protect a different part of the body, and two sizes (Type A and Type B). Type B is intended to cover the needs of most riders, but some may need the smaller Type A. Make sure you have the type that is the best fit for your body size. The wrong type may slide out of position and fail to protect you when you need it.
Back protectors and lumbar protectors (EN 1621-2) are intended to provide protection against impacts against edges such as kerbing. However, while some 13% of motorcyclists sustain back injuries in crashes, the majority of these injuries are due to blows to the head or to bending and twisting of the back. A back protector will not prevent these types of injury. Less than 1% of injured riders suffer serious injuries from direct blows to the spinal area, however back protectors will provide protection from more minor injuries such as bruises and strains (EN 1621-2, p. 4).