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Action sports such as motorcycling, mountain biking, skiing as well as water sports and horse riding are great fun and give you that extra kick of adrenalin, unfortunately they bear an increased risk for injuries from crashes and falls. What may end at best with a few scrapes sometimes can lead to severe injuries. While in many motor and action sports, a helmet is now part of the standard equipment, the rest of the body is often only protected half-heartedly or not at all. Some parts of the body such as the spine are exposed to almost all sports listed here at high risk. Other parts like knees, shins and neck are especially at risk among motorcyclists and mountain bikers, while in kiting and windsurfing also chest and ribs can be exposed to substantial impact.
For the majority of sports, it would certainly be wrong to fall into an exaggerated wariness and try to protect yourself against all eventualities. With the exception of athletes in high-risk sports (Motorbike racing, downhill bikers), in our eyes it makes sense to apply a combination of responsible behavior and the use of protectors for body parts which have a high risk in the respective sport. As an example: In in-line skating, it would be completely exaggerated to use a back protector, since over 90% of the injuries occur at the knees and arms. In water sports on the other hand, hardly anyone would wear knee or elbow protectors, since firstly no injury from impact are arising here and secondly the mobility would be significantly limited. Rib and head injuries however are to find much more often during hard impacts on water and material. A second very important question is at what intensity the sport is performed. With increasing speed and dedication, the risk for injuries increases disproportionally and personal body protection becomes extremely important.
The right protector
The primary criterion for a protector is of course its protective effect, this is why it was developed and bought in the first place. Most of the protectors sold by renowned companies meet the legal standards that apply to protectors, some others, particularly very cheap ones might not. But even protectors that fulfil those standards might have significant differences.
Often companies exceed the required minimum standard and offer protection that goes beyond. Of course this is much better and will just give you extra security in your sports but it is not always easy to find and compare such products. But not only the highest possible protection is a goal that manufacturers aim for but also comfort, lightweight, breathability and ease of use is an important criterion.
It is important to know that there are different standards for protective gear. This makes sense because expected impacts for motorcyclists are much higher than for example for mountain bikers. This example illustrates that there is mostly a tradeoff between protection and comfort of wearing. A back protector for motor bikers is more robust than those for cyclists but it also comes with additional weight and limited breathability.
Fit and comfort
Absolutely not to underestimate are fit and comfort of the protective gear. Why is the fit so important? Well, for a protector working best it hast to distribute pressure over a large area and should not be too loose to stay in place. If a protector slips it might not be correctly in place at the time of impact, if it sits uncomfortably you won´t wear it. This is actually an often underestimated problem. A good protector is a protector that is worn as often as possible and this will be not the case with one that pinches, itches or is poorly ventilated. With the right and well fitting protector on the other hand you feel strong and protected.
The most common protectors on the market are hard shell protectors that work similar to a turtle´s carapace and soft protectors which absorb the impact like a thick mattress. Both protector concepts follow a different philosophy and each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Hard shell protectors are especially strong when it comes to spotty impacts such as sharp stones, curbs or edges. The disadvantage is the often slightly lower damping of an impact, especially if they are not well padded under the shell, which can lead to increased impact stress. Soft protectors absorb impact energy very well and are also more comfortable to wear because they better adapt to the body´s shape. Their weaknesses against penetrating objects is compensated in many sports by their good comfort.
Whatever the protector you decide for, pay attention to buy a good quality product from a well-known manufacturer who has experience in your field of sport. Besides our test on protectorbase.com, customer feedbacks from online dealers such as amazon are very helpful because they often discover weaknesses of products that has either have not been tested in official tests or occur only after a long time. We hope we can help you to choose the protector which is right for you and your sports and keep our fingers crossed that you will never need it.
For most products we review for you we summarize the most important product features as well as their pros and cons in table form. The tested products are already a preselection of best performers, products which perform only satisfactory or sufficient we see as not worth buying and do not include them a priori. We hope you like the philosophy of our test comparisons and hope you enjoy reading and comparing.
Your Protectorbase.com team
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