I can’t understand how you are not paralyzed.
I felt my shoulder dislocate and explode, the noise was so loud that I thought that I had died. A second later I picked up my head and realized I could feel my fingers and toes.
I wanted to share with you my experience. I am a DH mountain biker. I had been agonizing over the decision to purchase a neck brace for the past 2 seasons. I finally decided to get the Leatt DBX Comp 2 and this is the story of what happened only 1 month later. The crash happened in Nelson B.C., Canada, April 30, 2013. A trail I have ridden hundreds of times, called Eli Simm, and feel as if I know every root, rock and drop. Enough so that I can ride it in my mind’s eye. We were out for an evening ride. We had our high power lights with us to do some night shooting and video if the conditions were right. I would not normally ride a trail at this time of evening without a light but when we dropped in the natural light was good so I did not turn on my bar light. The section before my crash was open canopy and the light was great so I pushed on fast into the old growth final section. My riding partner was behind me with a helmet camera so I let the brakes go in hopes of getting a good shot of a step down/step up wooden structure near the beginning of the section. As soon as I hit the lip of the step down I knew I was in trouble. The old growth had turned the good light from the previous section into near darkness. I was committed and could not change my line at this point. As I preloaded for the step up my rear tire rolled sideways off a root. This bucked me and I landed kinked up/sideways on the wooden structure. I should have crashed at this point but I tried to hold on by laying my bike over into a hard right turn. I was just getting straightened out as my front tire washed off the edge of the wooden structure. Because my suspension was compressed from landing and cornering my front tire shot off the bridge and pulled me with it. I tried to flip but had no rotation and sailed like a javelin into the base of a stump. I stuck into the dirt with no tumbling or rotation. I literally stuck into the earth from full downhill speed to a dead stop. I had outdistanced my riding partner so the actual crash was not captured but he is still rolling when he gets to me.
The thing that sticks with me is the amount of force that I felt my helmet/Leatt brace take. Everything slows down in a big crash (remember I stuck into the ground, no roll or rotation just a direct top of helmet impact to dead stop) and I remember feeling the impact and feeling it increasing and thinking this is the point where my neck is crushed and I will die or at best be in a wheelchair forever. The load kept increasing and right at that point the helmet contacted the brace and all of the weight and force going into my neck was suddenly distributed onto my shoulders/chest/back. I felt my shoulder dislocate and explode, the noise was so loud that I thought that I had died. A second later I picked up my head and realized I could feel my fingers and toes. I could not believe that I could still feel them; it felt a bit like a dream. My partner arrived on the scene. We both have significant first aid training and took our time to assess my spine before removing my helmet. Initially, my partner wanted Search and Rescue to come and get me but the thought of waiting 2 or more hours in the cold made me insist on walking out. After assessing spinal integrity, taking off the helmet, putting my shoulder back into the destroyed socket we hiked out of the bush; not fun. I asked my friend to check if there were bones sticking out of my back because every step made a horrible crunching and grinding noise. The ambulance met us following a 20 minute hike. By this point the endorphins had kicked in and despite the crushing pain I was in pretty good spirits. (There is a short video attached of the ambulance.)
After getting to the hospital I was rushed inside (never a good sign) The doctor was optimistic at first but after getting the CT scan his face visibly changed. He said “I thought your injuries were not severe because you are sitting here joking with me.” (Huffing on Nitrous will do that) “Your injuries are extremely serious. Your scapula and shoulder socket are completely shattered.” He then said to me: “I can’t understand how you are not paralyzed. How is your neck intact?” I told him about the Leatt Brace and he asked to see it. He then said that bikes should come with one of these strapped to the handle bars. He said that he sees so many spinal injuries from Whistler/BC riders that simply would not have happened if the rider had had one of these on. He also said that he never has to have the conversation with a patient about an injury like mine because the person is either paralyzed and has much larger problems or is dead from the associated trauma. This sentiment was echoed independently by three consecutive specialists. Unfortunately, another rider broke his neck on a trail in the same zone only a few days later. I posted this as I lay in the hospital immediately following the accident:
I am lying in a hospital bed right now with a 8 inch break running through my scapula all the way from shoulder joint to the point at the bottom. It feels like a book hinge. CT scan tomorrow. Fell off a high speed right cornered bridge, about 5 ft, to direct auger/lawn dart. Full dh speed. No time to ditch as front tire washed off the edge. Full dh armor and Leatt brace is the reason I am typing this and not someone else. Leatt saved my life. That brace was worth my life today. The price is inconsequential. As I speared the ground the amount of force taken up by the brace was staggering. The doctors have told me that the amount of force needed to break a scapula like this is so great that there is no question my cervical spine would have been crushed without the Leatt. Did the Leatt break the scapula? I don’t think so because my arm crumpled before my head hit.
Frankly it doesn’t matter one bit to me because I would not be typing this if I wasn’t wearing it. I don’t know what to say other than this and a tight fitting helmet are the most important pieces of safety gear you could ever own. Will never even ride x-country without it. Thank you Leatt for saving my life. Here is the damage. Surgery not an option. Looks like game over.
At this point I was broken down emotionally, but starting only a few days later I was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and perspective. A friend I encountered while I walked to the corner of my block (to clear the morphine from my system, arm in intricate sling) said that my eyes looked different. He said that I looked “Clear”.
The only explanation I have for this is that I knew I had survived something that could easily have killed me. I bought the brace for riding at resorts. As I was getting ready to go up the trail I reached into the back of my truck for the Leatt Brace. I thought, “It would be ridiculous for me to break my neck and have a brace in the back of my truck that I was too lazy to put on.” A bunch of choices led to the accident. If I had done anything differently I would not have crashed. The one choice that mattered was me grabbing the Leatt and putting it on. The crash shattered my TLD d3 helmet. On both sides from my chin all the way to temples, crushed it in a ring from my jaw all the way around the back of the helmet to the other side, and collapsed the top where the impact happened.
Follow up: Feb 14, 2014: Shoulder is completely healed up. (When I say this I mean it is without pain. There will always be a dinosaur mouth lurking within my scapula.) No surgery turned out to be the best option. (surgery would have meant probable nerve damage and pealing all of the muscles off of my scapula and would probably never heal properly) I have no nerve damage or impinged movement other than a tiny fraction that gets stuck at the furthest end of extension. Lots of rehab and retraining has me back at 99 %. Could not look at the dh rig that I crashed on so sold it and just picked up a Brand new TR 450 for a crazy price. Back at it as soon as the snow melts enough to ride. The reason I am writing this is to encourage people to consider a protective neck brace. If only one person is saved from this kind of injury, writing this will be worth every second. I just wanted to take the time to say, “Thank you.” to Leatt. The neck brace literally saved my life and allowed me to hold my baby with both arms, unassisted. I also want to thank my riding friends, ambulance attendants, doctors, medical staff, and riding community for all of their help and support.
Good luck to all those rehabbing!
Leatt is the ticket!