Who wouldn't want to experience the exhilaration of 190 mph or more behind a Ducati or other performance bike? Celebrities from Tom Cruise to Prince William, David Beckham to Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds all enjoy the super fast sport, driving some of the most elite bikes on the planet. And every kid wants to be exactly like them.

Since we know that the sport is one of the most dangerous competitive races on the planet, we will take a look at motocross and the superbike injury statistics. We'll explore some of the dangers of competitive and amateur racing, and how riders can reduce the risk of long-term injury or disability by taking preventative measures. When you consider that the average superbike has 1,000 cc with up to 200 horse power, and has the capability to turn the roadside scenery into little more than a blur, you can appreciate how easily a small accident can turn into a serious injury or fatality.

Motorcycle Competitive Sport: How Dangerous Is It?

If you thought NASCAR was high-speed and adrenaline inducing for race car drivers, consider what separates them from motocross or superbike drivers – a protective cage of metal, seat belts, and safety harnesses. That is not to say that NASCAR and car racing are not dangerous sports, but when things go wrong for drivers traveling at hundreds of miles per hour, there is more protection for a race car driver than there is for someone on a bike.

Road racing, motocross, and trail bike riding are the three most popular competitive motorcycle sports in the world, and the most dangerous. What can be done to make the sport a little safer?

Common Injuries Sustained by Motorcycle Competitors

The British Journal of Sports Medicine has a wealth of information and studies that pertain to motorcycle racing and injuries, given the fact that the sport is consistently popular in Asia Pacific and across European countries. One study, "Injuries in Elite Motorcycle Racing in Japan" shared statistics that identified how common mild to serious injuries are within the sport.

The survey and research findings revealed that:

  • Competitors at the professional and amateur level experience an injury rate of 22.4 injuries per 1,000 hours of practice training or competitive riding.
  • There was no correlation between age and risk of injury; the sport is unilaterally dangerous for riders at every age and experience level.
  • Trail biking was safer than other types of competitive motorcycle racing, with fewer severe injuries being reported in the survey.

Since the leagues began to record deaths in 1910, there were 270 competitor deaths in the Isle of Man TT competition. From 2006 to 2008, the competitive circuit saw the highest number of fatalities in the history of the sport, but since that time the number of deaths has continued to decline (and that is good news). But is the decline in fatalities as a result of improved driver training and regulations, or due to technological advances in safety equipment? Are new helmets, gloves, and gear making an impact on the injury and death rate for motorcycle competitors?

New Advances in Safety Equipment for Riders

The first and most obvious improvement to motorcycle competitive safety gear is body armor. From the early 1900s, motorcycle riders have not had the benefit or level of protection that today's riders do, assuming you have the capital to invest in a quality suit.

Pro-shirts come with inserted armor (built in hard shell shields that are shatter-resistant). The shirts are flexible to allow the rider optimal mobility, and most designs have a side-entry zip fastening that promotes chest protection. They are breathable and are CE rated for competitive use, including impact testing for back, shoulder, and chest areas. Check out this review of Forcefield Motorcycle Armor by Revzilla.

Core armor pants are constructed with soft or hard protective panels that help to insulate knees, hips, calves, and tailbone areas from shock on impact. Pants are typically CE or EN certified and tear resistant, to help prevent skin abrasions. They are also designed to be washable with moisture wicking fabrics that encourage all-weather wear for improved safety.

The technology behind helmets in 2016 has taken a quantum leap forward. With more power comes an even greater need to protect superbike riders, and the design of the best helmets on the market not only protect the head against impact, but help to prevent concussions and spinal injuries, by allowing the lining of the helmet to move and absorb velocity.

For more information about head injuries and high-speed motorcycle riding and competitive sport, check out “Motorcycle Helmet Use and Head and Facial Injuries” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets reduce motorcycle fatalities by 37 percent, and reduce head and spinal injuries by 69 percent. It's worth investing in a good one.

If you are purchasing a resale helmet, check to make sure your bike helmet is still safety rated. A free online resource is HelmetCheck.org, which allows you to enter the brand, type, and model of your helmet. Find out if your bike helmet is compliant with the U.S. Department of Transportation standards as a baseline, but remember that competitive riding requires higher rated equipment than needed for normal transportation. Don't become a statistic, or a victim of a motorcycle accident caused by someone's negligence.

Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Injury

No one is going to discourage the hundreds of thousands of superbike and motocross enthusiasts from competing in one of the world's most dangerous sports. However, there are factors that riders can practice to help reduce their risk of injury, including:

  • Wearing only safety certified protective gear.
  • Practice slow riding, soft shoulder braking, and other technical skills to improve proficiency.
  • Never ride without your helmet, and always invest in a good quality one.

Even though the superbike sporting events have dwindled in recent years in the United States, the amateur events for youths who want to be the world's next superbike pro are growing around the world. In Europe, the sport is still very in demand, and the community is focused on making the sport safer for all competitive levels and classes.

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