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Do You Need To Wear A Back Protector For Skiing?

31 December 2020 No comments
Do You Need To Wear A Back Protector For Skiing?

With the risk of injury whilst on the slopes, and developments in protection, comfort and effectiveness, you may be asking yourself if you need to wear a back protector for skiing or snowboarding. This article will give you an idea on some of the risks involved, benefits to wearing a protector, and the different types of protection available.

The Risks Of Skiing

As with nearly all sports, skiing does come with it’s own element of danger. Whilst the idea of falling over in soft snow doesn’t seem too bad, there are plenty of patches of solid ice, hidden rocks and objects below the snow that can quickly make a fall not quite as fun. Take into account the high speeds you can pick up, and it is really worth considering whether you are wearing adequate protection.

From a study carried out over a season in Sweden, the most common injuries seen in skiers were knee-related, and snowboarders were shoulder and upper arm related. However, out of all ski injuries, 4% were back-related, with this increasing to 7% for snowboarders. Whilst this is a lower percentage than other areas, it is important to consider that a back injury is more likely to be serious and potentially life-changing.

Ski Racing

GB skier Charlie Guest broke her back in 2014 whilst training Giant Slalom. After being persuaded by her coach, it was only the third time ever that she had worn a back protector for Giant Slalom. Had she not been wearing back protection that day, there could have been serious and long-lasting damage to her back, potentially ending her career as a skier. Charlie has since been promoting the benefits of back protection for all skiers.

Whilst Charlie is a professional ski racer, travelling at high speeds, it is important to consider that the average skier can still pick up high speeds, which increase the chance of serious injury. Another consideration is the threat that other slope users pose. Whether an out of control newbie, somebody skiing faster than their ability, or a moment of panic, collisions with other slope users are never good.

For more specific styles of skiing, each has it’s own added risk. Backcountry skiers have a number of reasons to consider additional protection, with uncovered (or shallow snow cover) objects such as rocks, alongside tree trunks, branches and stumps also adding to the risk. Freestyle and park skiers hitting jumps, rails and halfpipe, all also have a higher chance of taking a tumble.

Benefits To Wearing Back Protection For Skiing

Male and Female Skiers

Back protection offers a number of benefits to users, and with development and technology, they are now as comfortable and effective as ever. Here are some of the main benefits to wearing back protection:

  • If you suffer an impact, collision or fall, the force is spread across the whole of the protector, dampening the resulting force
  • The hard surface on back protectors prevent sharp objects such as branches, stones or sticks getting through
  • Thanks to their shape, back protectors also offer stabilization for your spinal cord

Are There Any Disadvantages To Wearing A Back Protector?

Any downsides to wearing a back protector are fairly minor. The most common complaints come from them being bulky, or uncomfortable on chairlifts. There are a few ways of resolving this, the most important being to ensure that the protector fits your correctly. There is also the option to choose from a hard shell or soft shell protector, with the later typically being lower profile. However, if you purchase a protector that fits you well and offers the right protection for you, then you shouldn’t have any problems.

Different Types of Back Protectors

There are two main types of back protection, soft shell and hard shell. Both offer similar protection, but with a couple of subtle differences between the two; the best option comes down to personal preference.

Hard Shell

Hard shell protectors are made from hard plastic and consist of a number of fixed panel which work as a protective outer shell. Through the construction of the panels, they connect to each other in a way that allows flexible movement and airflow. A soft foam is usually built between the plates and your back which offers cushioning for comfort and helps aid protection in case of an impact.

Hardshell Protector

The Demon Flexforce Pro Spine Guard Back Protector is a great example of a hardshell. With a combination of performance foam and hard plastic shell made from flex control panels, there is a great mixture of comfort and safety. 

Soft Shell

In recent years, Soft Shell protectors have emerged as the more popular of the two types of back protection. They are typically made of a soft foam hybrid material. This has a couple of benefits with the most obvious being that they are lighter than hardshells. They also better mould to the shape of your body.

Softshell Protector

The Atomic Men's Live Shield Vest AMID is an excellent example of a softshell protector, and one of the comfiest back protectors available. With Atomic's Multi-directional Impact Deflector material, impacts are absorbed and dispersed, with the tubular foam flexing and adapting to the shape of your body.

Huw Saunders

About the Author:

Huw Saunders - Outdoor Expert

Growing up in rural Wales, Huw has been immersed in the outdoors for as long as he can remember. If not surfing the Welsh coast, he can now usually be found either running or hiking in the Peak District and through the winter, tries to get out to Europe to ski as much as possible.

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