Protector ski binding for ACL & knee injuries review
A game-changer ski binding to protect a skier from ACL knee injuriesACL and knee injuries go hand in hand unfortunately with skiing, and for those that have done their ACL you always have the fear of it happening again, now there is a binding that could reduce knee injuries as well as giving reassurance to those getting back on their skis after a knee injury
I'm just back from the recent SIGB Ski test held in La Clusaz, where I was testing All Mountain piste-orientated skis using my Carv system as the benchmark to assess how a ski performs, but more on that soon.
I found myself on the Head stand and was in the process of selecting a ski to test, then having chosen a Head Supershape e-titan, as the ski was being set up on the bench for me by Matt Humphrey, he casually asked me if I knew about the Protector binding.
When he explained and demoed the functionality I was amazed, and I think he thought my reaction might have been a little OTT, but as someone who has blown their ACL(s), one skiing and the other a while back, and who has also broken a knee plus various other knee related issues after some 40 years skiing and snowboarding, this to me using their own marketing blurb, was indeed a game-changer.
And it's not just me, and maybe my vintage, living in the mountains you often hear how so-and-so has done their ACL, and as we have written more than a few times on Style Altitude, ACLs are not the preserve of the middle-aged Joe Average piste skier.
We know many a young-gun who has ripped theirs ripping the mountain. And the vast majority of athletes do concentrate on getting back on the horse as soon as possible, and often a brace is part of their armoury in giving them the confidence of protecting their injury.
So anything that reduces the potential of another injury is to be enthusiastically welcomed.
The majority of knee injuries, which account to circa 34 percent of all ski injuries, they are mainly caused by backward twisting falls.
Conventional bindings of all major suppliers are designed to reduce the risk of injuries to the lower leg below the knee, but they are not intended for preventing injuries to the knee. The innovative FULL HEEL RELEASE function, of the new PROTECTOR binding is meant to reduce ACL strain by more than 50 percent*. This can significantly reduce or mitigate the risk of knee injuries and injuries below the knee.
As soon as I saw how the binding released I was really impressed.
Basically, in layman speak, as soon as you twist your heel as you would when falling, the rear binding plate moves sideways either left or right with some movement so as not to totally release early. However, if the force is too great, then the rear binding unit will swivel an additional 30 degrees releasing the boot.
1 Low, short-term forces are absorbed by PROTECTOR's 7 mm of bilateral travel. Benefit: This elasticity avoids pre-releases.
2 Higher forces that exceed the release setting will move the heel the full 7 mm at which point PROTECTOR rotates open by 30° to release the ski boot.
So it all sounds great but what's the practicality of getting the Protector bindings?
For sure great if you rock up at your favourite store and when ordering your new Head skis they come with the bindings, which could well be the norm at both retail and rental levels in the future. For those who have never had a knee injury, they probably will not give a second thought, nor appreciate the binding's functionality.
But what about if you, like many others I know, who after injury are keen to get back to skiing and have probably already invested in a Donjoy type brace at circa €400 or better still a Stoko, and also want the additional protection that the Protector bindings can offer? How does that shape up?
Well, it would seem that Head/Tyrolia has given a great deal of thought about that, and there isn't just one model available but a series of models that could fit the bill, plus I believe that there are women's versions with lighter DIN settings, of which I failed to mention that there are two DIN adjustments on the heel unit.
There are two PowerRail Segment bindings, The PROTECTOR PR 13 and PR 11 models which are based on a PowerRail base. These models work with all skis with a premounted PR base.
And then for all flat skis they also offer the PROTECTOR Set models, as a stand-alone heel and toe piece.
As for weight, I did not immediately notice a substantial difference in weight, which is probably as a result of them weighing circa 150g for each binding compared to a normal binding.
There's more information about the individual bindings and pricing over on the Head/Tyrolia site along with a lot more information.
So I'm seriously considering buying some to put on my new GS skis. It's going to be interesting viewing the feedback to this feature?
WHAT MAKES HEAD/TYROLIA’S BRAND NEW PROTECTOR BINDINGS SO REVOLUTIONARY?
As the world’s ski binding market leader, we at TYROLIA are thrilled to unveil PROTECTOR, the most safety-focused bindings yet. Thanks to Full Heel Release (FHR), our revolutionary 180-degree heel release mechanism, the PROTECTOR binding is currently the most effective binding at preventing serious knee injuries and reducing the risk of injury caused by backward twisting falls.
WHAT WAS THE STARTING POINT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS INNOVATION?
Numerous medical and sports science studies show that knee injuries account for one-third of all injuries incurred in recreational skiing, with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) damage being the most common knee injury. The backward twisting fall is known to be the main cause of these knee injuries. Our goal has been to improve this situation and reduce injuries through mechanical advancements in our bindings. This is why PROTECTOR is so thrilling – it is proven to reduce the risk of knee injury due to its Full Heel Release.
WHAT IS A BACKWARD TWISTING FALL?
Characteristically, a backward twisting fall presents the following elements: the center of the skier’s body is off balance (typically leaning back), a load is on the end of the ski, ligaments in the knee are pretensioned, and a catching inside edge causes an internal rotation of the tibia relative to the thigh. The ACL usually tears when the knee is fully loaded in this flexed position and rotated at the same time, or when the knee is hyperextended.
WHAT MAKES THE PROTECTOR DIFFERENT COMPARED TO CONVENTIONAL SAFETY BINDINGS?
Conventional bindings from all major suppliers are designed to reduce the risk of injury to bones in the lower leg. However, they are not suitable for preventing knee injuries. Since the 1980s, little has changed in technology and functionality in this regard, but injury patterns have. With the carving ski boom, the number of serious injuries to the knee - especially to the ligaments - has increased dramatically. This is mainly caused by backward twisting falls, which account for 70% of all falls. These injuries are what we focused on reducing.
WHAT NEW TECHNOLOGY IS FEATURED IN THE PROTECTOR?
Full Heel Release (FHR) technology is the centrepiece around which the PROTECTOR binding rotates – figuratively and literally. While conventional safety bindings only release vertically at the heel (and experience increased release values in backward twisting falls), FHR offers a combination of horizontal and vertical releases, allowing PROTECTOR bindings to maintain constant release values during backward twisting falls.
HOW DOES THE FULL HEEL RELEASE (FHR) WORK?
Low, short-term forces are absorbed by the 7mm of horizontal, bilateral movement of the heel. When the load exceeds the FHR settings, the heel slides horizontally the full 7mm and rotates open by 30 degrees to release the ski boot. This feature establishes a new benchmark in ski binding safety and functionality. Thanks to the more constant release values, the forces acting on the knee and its ligaments are reduced by more than 50%. With the PROTECTOR binding, TYROLIA thus achieves a significant reduction in the risk of knee injury in the event of a fall.
DOES THE NEW HEEL DESIGN AND THE RESULTING LOWER RELEASE VALUES FOR BACKWARD TWISTING FALLS AFFECT THE SKIER'S PERFORMANCE OR FEEL?
In a word: no. Five-time Kitzbuehel downhill winner Didier Cuche confirmed this during his on-snow tests. Despite the new movement found in FHR, there is no increase in the risk of pre-releases. The new features, including the 7 mm bilateral movement of the heel, are simply not noticeable while skiing. In addition to FHR, the new PROTECTOR binding offers all of TYROLIA’s industry-leading safety features along with on-snow performance that matches any other conventional TYROLIA binding.
HOW COMPLICATED IS IT TO SWITCH TO THE NEW FHR TECHNOLOGY?
The transition is very simple because the PROTECTOR binding can be quickly and easily utilized on any ski model with a pre-mounted Power Rail base. For all flat skis, TYROLIA offers the PROTECTOR Set versions as well as the PROTECTOR Attack model. This also benefits rental businesses that can easily offer the FHR technology for maximum safety.
*Finite-Element-Model-Simulations of the University of Innsbruck: "Lateral Heel Release Reduces ACL Strain in Simulated Backward Twisting Falls
This video pretty well explains it all :)