Machine Design

Bracing for a wipeout

Flexible wrist guards made from a thermoplastic elastomer absorbs the high loads sustained when a snowboarder's wrist twists during a heavy fall.

An energy absorbing elastomer helps wrist guards protect snowboarders from dorsal wrist injuries. A future design geared to free-style snowboarders will provide both dorsal and palm-side wrist protection.

The guards, called Fleximeters, are rigid enough to keep bones on the dorsal (backside) of the arm from breaking, but not enough to hamper wrist movement. They are made of Hytrel TPE from DuPont Engineering Polymers, Wilmington, Del., which economically molds into form-fitting bands that are thin enough to slip under standard snowboard gloves.

The wrist guard was invented by Marc-Herve Binet, president of France's Medecins de Montagne (mountain doctors) after he conducted biomechanical studies that determined how snowboarders fell and the types of injuries they sustained. Working with DuPont, Binet's team selected a Hytrel grade that balances stiffness and flexibility. It comes in hardnesses ranging from 30 to 82 Shore D, resists abrasions, easily colors, and can be mixed with additives that boost UV resistance. The wrist guards are manufactured by Skimeter of Publier, France, and come in two styles; one is used with a separate glove, while the other is a glove with a built-in dorsal splint.

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