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New, safer wrist guard for snowboarders is based on Hytrel

Du Pont Engineering Polymers : 15 December, 2003  (Company News)
French inventor and medical doctor, Dr Marc-Herv
The Flexmeter® wrist guard was launched this year by Skimeter; a French company specialised in safety and winter sports equipment based in Publier, France. Dr Binet is a medical consultant to Skimeter.

Dr Binet says: “We chose Hytrel® for three main reasons. The thermoplastic polyester elastomer absorbs high loads occurring in dorsal flexion during snowboard falls. Its flexibility allows maximum wrist mobility. Lastly, because Hytrel® could be easily and economically injection moulded to a highly anatomical and ergonomic shape, the wrist guard is thin enough to be worn under standard snowboard gloves.”

The main difference between Flexmeter® and the thermoplastic splints used until now by snowboarders for wrist protection is that the new wrist guard was designed specifically for snowboarders, whereas previous products were designed for skateboarders. Wrist protection devices for inline skaters are stiff, short and situated on the palm side because of the way the skaters fall. By contrast, Flexmeter® is situated on the dorsal side of the wrist to protect hyperflexion and is soft enough to allow normal mobility of the wrists – essential for snowboarders.

Dr Binet explained: “Our team of physicians and engineers conducted many biomechanical studies into the way snowboarders fall, and the injuries produced by those falls. We found that whereas skateboarders, who are skating on concrete or tarmac, break their wrists lower down, snowboarders’ broken wrists always occur significantly higher up the arm. We discovered that this is because the way these guys are moving and the forces that occur when they fall on the snow means that there is substantially more hyperflexion in the dorsal sense (a dorsal flexion occurs when you lift your wrist).

“Hytrel® therefore brought us an excellent solution: it is strong enough to limit flexion at the wrist and a good way up the arm without being too stiff (which would mean an uncomfortable splint and one that young snowboarders would probably not willingly wear). ”For added comfort, the thermoplastic polyester elastomer backbone of Flexmeter® is cushioned against the skin by softer materials including cotton and DuPont™ Lycra®.

He continued: “Flexmeter® allows the wearer to bend his or her wrist, for a great feeling of freedom and mobility while snowboarding – even when performing daring jumps - but in the case of impact, the dorsal hyperflexion that would result in a broken wrist is effectively prevented. It was important to get just the right degree of stiffness because a splint that is too stiff would simply mean that the snowboarder would suffer from a broken elbow instead of a broken wrist due to the amortisation of shock along the lower arm in the case of a bad fall.”

Dr Binet’s team worked with DuPont specialists to select exactly the right grade of Hytrel® with the correct degree of rigidity for this application. The company also worked with Skimeter to check that the new wrist splints give precisely 200 Newtons of flexibility, just the right amount, according to Dr Binet’s studies.

The Flexmeter® wrist guard is available in two models: single dorsal protection (one splint) and a snowboard glove including dorsal Hytrel® protective device. There are future plans to launch dorsal and palm protection devices with two splints for free style snowboarders.

Worldwide, no less than 95,000 broken wrists occur each year. In France alone the figure is more than 10,000 per year. Whereas skiers tend to suffer from knee injuries predominantly, the wrists of snowboarders are known to be the most exposed part of the body. No less than 50 percent of teenage snowboard accidents take the form of broken wrists, according to Dr Binet – and snowboarders of all ability levels are affected by wrist injuries.

Based in the French Alps, Skimeter designs, develops and commercialises products that improve safety for winter sports fans.
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