The mandatory jumpsuit with airbag: collarbone versus shoulder

The implementation of the garment in 2018 opens the debate about whether now the joint suffers more than the bone, as it could be in the case of Marc Márquez.


"Risk is something intrinsic to this sport and if we thought about what could happen to us, we would stay at home." This phrase of a World Cup rider traverses the history of motorcycling. Fortunately, safety does not stop increasing, both in the circuits and in the equipment of the riders, but the zero risk will not be achieved since it is impossible to handle all the assumptions of a motorcycle race at more than 300 km / h. Kato, Tomizawa, Simoncelli and Salom, the four pilots who died in the 21st century within the World Cup, were unable to survive the circumstances beyond controllable security.

The circuits have been adding advances such as airfence, gravel or pozzolana traps, asphalt escapes ... in addition to excellent doctors and facilities to treat injured riders who have, especially in MotoGP, with clothes of the highest existing technology. A kangaroo fur jumpsuit with airbag; shoulder pads, knee pads, elbow pads and polyurethane hump; multilayer back, gloves with armor and reinforcements, boots designed to protect and absorb impacts that do not allow lateral torsion, and custom made helmet of multi-composite organic fiber of high performance in several layers. Still, no one can assure that misfortune will not strike again.

Precisely the monkey is one of the most advanced elements. In 2018, Dorna decided to obligatorily implement the one that includes an airbag that until then was only seen covering the body of some privileged of the great teams, since they were very expensive. However, the World Cup promoter added it as an indispensable element for the sake of security. The main firms created authentic virguerías formed by 13 pieces of leather that takes more than seven hours to sew by hand and that are provided with a full-length airbag. This, through intelligent sensors, detects whether or not there is a fall and swells before impact. Built with kangaroo leather, a very abrasion resistant material, it includes six pieces of armor fitted inside: two in arms, two in legs, one in the chest and one in the back.

For the less initiated, explain that the monkeys are sewn in a certain way to fulfill complementary functions with safety such as avoiding certain movements preventing the arm from violently moving backwards to try to block the shoulder and, in this way, protect the joint Great option, but every action produces a reaction ... or not. And here opens the debate that has defenders in both directions. The principle of conservation of energy, enunciated by James Prescott Joule, indicates that "energy is not created or destroyed, only transformed." In these transformations the total energy remains constant and is the same before and after. Therefore, applied to our example, it would mean that, in theory, reinforcing shoulder safety inexorably forces the impact force to move to another point that must absorb the energy of the blow.

And what does it produce? When the pilots fall they try to protect the head instinctively so that hand, wrist, elbow or clavicle are the first parts of the anatomy that, on a high number of occasions, hit the ground and are the most affected. And, without a doubt, the clavicle, the bone that extends horizontally between the upper part of the sternum and the shoulder blade, was the winner between the fractures every time they landed with an extended arm or impacting with the shoulder. When a pilot fell he had to multiply his weight by nine to calculate the equivalent impact he would receive. A fact that the airbag has reduced considerably since it absorbs at least 80% .

In the last two seasons, clavicle fractures have decreased and shoulder dislocations and subluxations have increased. Is there any medical explanation? Officially, no. In fact, experts such as Dr. José González (director of the Deyre Medical Center), whose column accompanies this text, affirm that the airbag does not affect the shoulder or increase the lesions. However, according to the companies that manufacture them, their protection now protects the clavicles, something that the previous monkey did not do, besides shoulders, kidney area, rib cage, chest, upper abdomen and back. Therefore, the clavicle rupture becomes a somewhat less common option ... that does not prevent the impact energy from leaving somewhere. And where would it go? One possibility is that he returns to the shoulder causing him to take him to a forced movement to exceed his limits and leave the head of the glenoid humerus. A situation that in young athletes raises the option of suffering a second dislocation, a third ... as happened to Marc Márquez with his left shoulder in 2018 and has been avoided with preventive intervention in the right. Just him? No. Oliveira, Quartararo or Nakagami have suffered the same injury this year.

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