Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support - Product Evaluation

Security for your upper spine?

Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support - Product Evaluation

Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support - Product Evaluation

I broke my freakin’ neck. Yes, you read that right.

While testing motocross bikes last year, I came up short on a 75-foot jump, clipped the top of the landing ramp with the front wheel and was thrown violently over the handlebars to the ground.

Here’s the good news: I walked into my office this morning, and I’m typing this with my own two hands.

Like a lot of people, I sometimes feel that adding another piece of riding gear to my armored puzzle might seem like more hassle than it’s worth. But the truth is that the right gear, worn at the right time, can save your life.

Take the Alpinestars Bionic Neck Support. It’s a device intended to divert energy from a head-first impact away from the spine and thus help prevent catastrophic injury, such as a fracture of the neck that could result in paralysis or even death. Further, it may reduce the chance of muscle injury by guarding against hyperflexion.

The Bionic Neck Support is a two-piece, foam-backed molded plastic design with a scissors-style hinge at the rear and a motocross-boot-style buckle closure up front. Because correct fit is critical, Alpinestars offers five sizes (XS-XL) and a second set of shoulder pads that, if needed, plug into the primary pads. Elastic X-straps worn under your riding jersey attach to small tabs on the sides of the brace to hold it in place. The plastic version that I tested is white/black; the carbon-fiber type ($530, modeled in the photo by Off-Road Editor Ryan Dudek) is red/black.

Alpinestars suggests a gap of no more or less than 1.5 inches between the bottom of your helmet and the top of the brace. To achieve this recommended spacing while wearing a Shoei VXF-W off-road helmet, I did not use the aforementioned optional pads. The support seemed a bit awkward at first, but after just a handful of laps around the track, I all but forgot that I was even wearing it.

And the crash? The impact destroyed my sixth cervical vertebra, which was surgically replaced with an artificial spacer supported by a titanium plate and two Ti rods. Five vertebrae were permanently fused. The surgeon who performed the operation, as well as another doctor intimately familiar with the case, agreed that the use of the support likely saved me from spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

I will never know for certain if the Bionic Neck Support prevented further injury. But if you ask me if I was glad I was wearing it, the answer is emphatically yes.

Looking back, the short time that I spent buckling the support in place at the side of the track before going riding doesn’t seem like much of a hassle, after all.

DETAILS

**Alpinestars USA, Inc.

2780 W. 237th St.

Torrance, CA 90505

310/891-0222

Price...$289**

Ups

  • Easy on, easy off

  • Comfortable fit

  • Plastic version costs hundreds less than carbon-fiber model

Downs

  • Can't guarantee against injury

  • Doesn't work with all chest/back protectors

  • Boot-buckle-like closure takes some practice

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