Fractures are a common injury among motorcycle riders and can have serious health implications. Impact protection (IP) has been designed to help prevent fractures, yet there are conflicting opinions as to whether this IP does in fact help prevent fractures in real-world crashes. This work aimed to (1) use simulated dummy impacts to examine whether existing types of IP could reduce the force transferred to the underlying bone to below fracture tolerance levels and (2) investigate whether current European Standard (EN 1621-1) test procedures for impact protectors designed for motorcyclists are sufficient to ensure fracture protection. Though the energy attenuation test method in the European standard may be an appropriate approach, distinct differences in injury protection performance observed between knee and shoulder IP indicate that there may be a need for different performance criteria for IP designated to protect different body regions.
Facial impacts are both common and injurious for helmeted motorcyclists who crash; however, there is no facial impact requirement in major motorcycle helmet standards. This study examined the effect of full-face motorcycle helmet protection on brain injury risk in facial impacts using a test device with biofidelic head and neck motion. A preliminary investigation of energy absorbing foam in the helmet chin bar was carried out. Despite the lack of an impact attenuation requirement for the face, full-face helmets do provide a reduction in head injury risk to the wearer in facial impacts. The specific helmet design factors that influence head injury risk in facial impacts need further investigation if improved protection for helmeted motorcyclists is to be achieved.
Laboratory studies have demonstrated that impact protectors (IP) used in motorcycle clothing can reduce fracture severities. While crash studies have reported IP are associated with reduced likelihood of soft tissue injury, there is little evidence of their effectiveness in reducing fracture likelihood. This discrepancy might be related to IP quality. There are mandatory requirements for IP supplied with protective clothing in Europe, but not elsewhere. This study examines the energy attenuation performance of IP used by Australian riders. The allowable transmitted force of EN 1621-1 may be too high to effectively reduce the probability of impact injury. This is not surprising, given human tolerance levels that are reported in literature. Reducing the force limit below the reported fracture tolerance limits might be difficult with current technology. However, there is scope to reduce the EN 1621-1 maximum limit of 50 kN transmitted force. A reduction in the maximum force limit would improve rider protection and appears feasible, as 77% of tested IP recorded a maximum force <35 kN. This level of transmitted force is estimated to be associated with <20% probability of impact injury. While the performance of IP available to Australian riders is not regulated, most IP was CE marked. The results indicate a significant association between maximum transmitted force, tested according to EN 1621-1 procedures, and impact injury. Further investigation of the EN 1621-1 requirements may be warranted. This work will interest those targeting protective equipment for motorcyclists as a mechanism for reducing injury to these vulnerable road users.