In this installment on Driver Safety Gear we are going to talk about the importance of Racing Neck Collars. Webster's Dictionary defines neck collar as a device to give added physical support or strength to (something). The purpose of the neck collar is to support the head and neck for the forces placed on it during a race and during a collision. While neck collars have been used to many years in the sport of drag racing, they were not used as frequently in other forms of motorsports until recent years.
In February of 2001, 7 time NASCAR Champion, Dale Earnhardt Sr, was involved in a last lap crash at the Daytona 500. Dale suffered multiple injuries in the crash and ultimately lost his life. While this was a devastating blow to the NASCAR community, it shined a light on the importance of finding a way to better protect a driver's head and neck. Today, NASCAR drivers have custom seats with head supports that come up on the sides of the drivers helmet. These supports protect the driver's head from moving to the left or right. In addition, all drivers are required to wear what is called a HANS device which limits the distance a drivers head can move forward or backwards, which can result in a condition commonly known as whiplash.
In the sport of karting, neck collars are more commonly used and are mandatory for the younger drivers. While not required for adult drivers, it is always recommended that drivers use all of the safety equipment available to them. There are different types of neck collars available to kart drivers. Prices can range from $30.00 to several hundred dollars. Some of the originnal neck collars are simple form wedges that go around the drivers neck just below the helmet and attached with a piece of vecro. These foam neck collars are the least expensive ones on the market today and do a great job at support the weight of helmet and protect the neck of the driver. As we mentioned in previous articles, racing a kart around the track places a large amount of force on the body and the drivers head and neck take a lot of that force. With the foam brace between the helmet and the shoulders of the drivers, this limits the movement of the helmet and reduces the strain put on the drivers neck.
While the foam wedge type neck collars provided great support for the neck and helmet, they were bulky and some drivers did not like that. The next generation neck braces were more advanced and made from multiple types of materials. The new designs still provided protect from whiplash type injuries but were much thinner and provided additional protection for the collar bones and upper section of the spine. These new designs were more comfortable to wear and provided better protection than the original foam wedge neck collars.
Which ever type of neck collar you choose make sure that it fits properly with the other driver equipment you are using. Go to your local kart shop and see if they have the collars you are thinking about using and see if you can try them on. Make sure to bring your race helmet with you as you want to make sure everything fits together and is comfortable for your driver. Equipment that does not fit properly, will not work properly and not provide the protection you need and expect.
Do your research, talk with other drivers in the series you run and see what they think about a particular item. In my experience, the karting community willing to share information and help each other.
In our next installment on Driver Safety Gear we are going to talk about Race Suits, Gloves and Shoes.
Until then... Go to the Track, Make Friends, Have Fun and Go Home Happy!