If history has taught us anything about the world of automotive racing, it’s that it is an inherently dangerous sport. Among the common injuries sustained by race car drivers, a basilar skull fracture has proven time and time again to be one of the most deadly. Enter, Doctor Robert Hubbard. Dr. Hubbard was a professor of bio-mechanical engineering at Michigan State University in the 1980s. After talking with his brother in law about the death of their mutual friend Patrick Jacquemart, who died of severe head and neck injuries during a testing accident, Dr. Hubbard decided to help stop these preventable deaths.
Let’s break it down with a little bit of physics. As we all know, objects in motion stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. When you are restrained inside your racing harness, your body will stay in place, while your head moves freely during an accident. With the amount of G-Force inflicted during race crashes, this causes trauma in the head and base of the neck. The HANS (Head and Neck Support) Device is a carbon fiber U shaped bend, which sits at the nape of the driver’s neck. Each side has tethers that connect to the driver’s helmet via the helmet anchor. It effectively minimizes the chances of your head whipping back and forth during an accident, because the tethers hold the head in place, much like the 5 or 6 point harness holds your body in place. The shoulder belt restraint/shoulder support is attached to the device, so that both your head and body are restrained effectively by simply securing your harness belt over the device.
In the first decade of sales, the device sold very few units. Many drivers complained of how uncomfortable the device was, and claimed it would cause more harm than good in an accident. The 1996 death of Blaine Johnson caused the device to be implemented for use in the NHRA competitions. Many major racing circuits followed suit, especially after the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. at the Daytona 500. Earnhardt was the fourth NASCAR driver in 14 months to die from basilar fracture injuries, three of which occurred in 2000.
So whether you’re racing carts at a local track, or a Formula 1 racing guru, the HANS device has helped save the lives of many in harrowing accidents. Basilar fracture injuries can occur in speeds as low as 35 miles per hour, and has been proven to reduce head movement during accidents by a whopping 44%. The device comes in around 8 different models, with prices ranging from $579.00 to $1,199.00. If you think that price is too high, just imagine the cost of hospital bills, or worse compared to a tool that could save your life.
Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons