Thoracic Injuries & Body Protectors

Replay: Clinic with Dr Diane Fisher

Mr Diane Fisher hosted a brilliant clinic live on Facebook on 20/05/2021 in collaboration with Racesafe. James How joined Dr Diane to discuss all things anatomy and thoracic (chest) injury, as well as explaining how body protectors work, the standards, key features and the history behind Racesafe and body protector manufacturing. 

The clinic also included what types of injury Dr Diane sees in hospital, what can you do if you suspect one in a fallen rider and dives into the huge amount of work that goes into producing an equestrian body protector, when do you need to wear one and what they do to protect you. There is also a Q&A at the end with lots of excellent questions.

You can watch the full clinic below:

Questions from the Clinic

Dr. Diane Fisher took some viewer questions at the end of the talk, and we've included this section of the talk below for you. 

Dr. Diane Fisher: Vivian says, do you have to update body protectors like hats?

James How: Well, no, we recommend they're replaced every three to five years, and that depends on how hard they are used really. The foam will start to degrade gradually after a certain period of time, and then they won't have the impact performance that they're meant to. We're aware that people do keep them longer, but handing them down between generations is not a great idea. 

Dr. Diane Fisher: Kate says, can you explain why you should wear a body protector and an air jacket, or is it sufficient to just wear one or the other?

James How: That's a great question. The way we try to explain it is a jacket should be seen as an extra layer of protection. They're not a replacement for a body protector. They work very well with certain types of impacts, mainly things like falling onto flat ground, as long as that sort of impact is dispersed over quite a wide area, and in that instance they work well. Where they don't work very well at all, or offer very little protection is where that impact is more localized. That goes for everything from falling off on to something, to being kicked or coming off and the saddle hitting you, in which case that localized impact will go straight through that sort of level, that layer of air protection. Worn together, they work very well. We would discourage them being worn on their own. If it's a case of wearing nothing, or an air jacket, there's probably an argument to say it's better than nothing. But there's also the fact that body protectors offer a static layer of constant protection which is always going to be there. Air Jackets rely on being triggered, and they don't always go off.

Dr. Diane Fisher: And they don’t always go off.

James How: No, for example if you have a horse come down with you. It's not guaranteed. Yes, they are very reliable in terms triggering these days. But depending on the type off fall you have, you do have to be thrown. So, yes, it’s better than nothing if you're hacking out, but it's not a substitute. They work best together. We always recommend for people coming in to riding new, that you buy a body protector first, and then if you want to natural air protection, then yeah, absolutely, look at an air jacket.

Dr. Diane Fisher: I think I heard (because I did the BETA safety course today) one of the speakers there said that it's like your body protector is your seatbelt in a car. Now if your car's got airbags, that's a winner. But if your car had airbags, you wouldn't drive without your seatbelt off.

"Your body protector is like the seat belt in your car. If your car's got air bags then that's a bonus, but you still wouldn't drive without your seat belt on."

- Dr. Diane Fisher talking about body protectors and air jackets.

James How: Yes, it's an extra layer of protection.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Clare says, I love my Racesafe but having big boobs and a short body, it's quite restrictive under my arms. Is there an answer? 

James How: Yes, I think one of the best things we've done over the last couple of years is creating many more size variations. So, every size has two body lengths and then four back lengths for each of those two body lengths, so there are many many size variations now. Historically Clare was probably one of the customers that was quite hard to fit, but we've now shaped them more to be female friendly and so I would suggest going and getting it checked to make sure it fits you properly, either by a stockist or speak to us, because it should be fitting you properly. There are so many things we can do these days.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Yeah, definitely. And I don't know how old your body protector is Clare, but you maybe due an upgrade. If somebody ever wanted one that was made bespoke, can they contact you for that if they specifically wanted that?

James How: Yes, absolutely. We've added loads of variations within the size range, so we don't do as many made-to-measures as we used to because of that, but we still do. That's one of the beauties of making them here. We can tweak them, we can we can make them to fit 99.999% of riders.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Kate says she currently has a rotator cuff injury to the shoulder. Can the pads help with this? And can you purchase them individually? So, I would say yes, they would have helped with the rotator cuff. Can you purchase them individually?

James How:
Yes, the shoulder pads are sold separately, and they attach on to any of our models. They're absolutely something we want to try and push. I think that’s same for all body protector brands, we all between this think, we don't sell as many shoulder pads as we should compared the number of body protectors we do, and I think yes, we've gone through that effort to protect thoracic area, but you know, your shoulders are very vulnerable.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Yeah that’s huge.

James How: And there's not very many riders who get to a certain age don't have shoulder problems after you know, after a career of falls, you know, that's how you tend to come off. And, you know, yes they are an extra expense once you've bought a body protector, but they did a study (a while ago now) Eventing falls and there was an 80% reduction in shoulder injuries for those people wearing shoulder protectors.

So it's something we should be doing more to try and promote, so please try them, and again, they have come on so far. They used to be big, awful ones like dinner plates.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Yeah, like dynasty ones.

James: Yeah, but now you wouldn't know, once you get used to them a couple times, you wouldn't know you were wearing them. So yes, please try some on.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Absolutely. And Tamara says lots of people have said the air jackets can contribute to neck injuries. Is this true? And can you wear an air jacket alone? I think we've kind of we've answered the jacket alone. I am not aware that there's any evidence that they contribute to neck injury, at all. It’s not been done enough.

James How: Yeh, no, I think they come in and out of fashion a bit as and when people think they help or not, but I think on the whole they've been very beneficial.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Vivian says "I purchased a body protector 20 years ago as it matched my cross-country colours. It was so uncomfortable, I sold it eventually sounds like the new ones are so much better?"

100% they are, and, I’m trying to think when I bought my one before this, it was probably about eight years before, and it was a massive difference. And now when I've seen what's out now it's like oh, okay, and I'm probably doing upgrade soon. So, I'm quite excited about that.

And, Helen says utterly fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to do this talk. I need a new body protector and love that Racesafe are UK based family business hoping to see you at Blair Horse Trials to get measured for a new one. Are you at Blair?

James How: Yeah fingers crossed, certainly, if it's all on. 

Dr. Dian Fisher:
When is that? 

James How: It's after Burghley, so September. Obviously Burghley is not running, but I haven't heard more about Blair. I hope so.  

Dr. Diane Fisher: Ray says "this is why I need something comfy enough to school every day I have a pro two air jacket, but keep forgetting to unhitch before getting off every day schooling". That's a pain, yeah that's huge because you’ll end up causing an injury. That's what I found with mine if you forget to unhitch. You know you've done it as well as soon as you swing your leg over...

James How:
Yeah you would see it when they first cam out, as soon as you go to an event there would just be a series across the field of people jumping off without unclipping. 

Dr. Diane Fisher: Okay, it says what's the best way to get fitted for a body protector? There seems to be lots of different schools of thought in respect of length. If it's too long, it catches a saddle. But if it's too short, it doesn't protect your organs. So, what’s the length that you would say is best?

James How: Yeah, I think fit is something we could have touched on. I think she's probably referring to back length mainly. Historically, there was a tendency to fit them too long. You know, they used to be called back protectors, they used to be this misconception that they should be designed to cover and protect your coccyx. But the reality of the situation is you can't sit in a saddle and ride with something it's designed to cover your coccyx.

The way we tend to fit them is with a balance, you want good protection but enough clearance of your saddle. The way BETA train, and the way we suggest is when you sit in the saddle, if you've got a hands width between the bottom of your body protector to the seat to the saddle, it's quite a good guide that you're going to have enough clearance for you to have a full range of movement, but balanced with some good low back protection.


Dr. Diane Fisher: Where can we look for the protectors, I find it hard for smaller waist but large in the front. So Sarah, like James said, if you're looking for a new body protector, there's a multitude of sizes now for everything, it's all covered. But if your struggling, because your a very particular shape, it is an option to have a bespoke one made, you just need to speak to Racesafe.

James How: Yes, we can put you in touch with somebody nearby who's a specialist in that sort of thing.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Yeah because it might just be the fact that they're not being fitted correctly, that's probably more like it. 

Mira says she wish there were more show jacket compatible ones. I think you can but it underneath your show jacket. That's a question from me actually, should they be under or over your show jacket?

James How: I guess its a bit of an age-old question really, technically, they're going to work best when they're in close contact with you.

Dr. Diane Fisher: So under?

James How:
Well yes it's technically going to perform best but actually, if you're wearing it underneath, but you can hardly do your jacket up and you're restricted, and you cant move properly...

Dr. Diane Fisher: You're more likely to fall off?

James How: Yeah, is that actually going to be a bigger problem, are you actually just better off putting it over in that circumstance? And then be much more of a confident rider? Realistically, in the real world, most people where them over the top. And I suppose, there's a whole new product line of air jackets built into show jackets and things like that. You see it in show jumping, certainly in Europe. So that's perhaps something that's going to become more popular.


Dr. Diane Fisher: Ray says what is the difference between the ProVent and the RS2010?

James How: The are just different models we make, both are suitable for level 3... Both will give you the same level of level 3 protection. RS2010's have a satin finish which is quite smart, and particularly popular with kids and show jackets. ProVent is our latest one which a bit lighter and a bit more breathable. 

Dr. Diane Fisher:
I've not seen these near me, are they readily available? Yeah you are in pretty much most shops aren't you? Or is there a list on your website of where you are? 

James How: Yep there's a stockist list on our website, we're widely available in the UK and in Europe and further afield. It's obviously been a bit tricky the last 12 months. Stores haven't really been able to do fittings. So, I think most of them are back up and running now. I'd call them before you go to double check. Or if there's nobody near you, call us, we'll point you in the right direction.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Shawn says what's the best way to clean them?

James How: Sponge and warm soapy water, then hang up to dry. 

Dr. Diane Fisher: So don't get them proper wet? 

James How: You can do yeah. As long as it's a mild soap in warm water, you're fine. They are made of closed cell foam, so they don't absorb water. It one of those things, because they are safety products, we can't recommend they're washed in more intensive ways, just because of the way they'd have to be tested, but they're pretty durable. Warm water is fine, just don't boil them.

Dr. Diane Fisher: Ok, great, so that's the end of your grilling by our wonderful viewers James... Thank you so much for coming on. 

Your questions answered

If you have any other questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with our customer care team, we are very happy to help and advise however we can.