I know plenty of people who regularly use upper body protection when they're running rocky nar / high wood / low water etc... this is especially popular in the NW and AK.
I think of it as being similar to the use of face protecting helmets. Sure with good technique you can minimize the chances you'll ever need use the 'extra' protection, but eventually (even with good technique) if you're in the environment long enough someday you're gonna wish you had that 'extra' protection.
While it is true that hard armor will do nothing to prevent 'non-impact' related dislocations (good technique is key), armor works great for impact related injuries. Its a no brainer that taking a rock at high speed across a bare shoulder is going to suck a lot more than a shoulder protected with plastic armor.
One just needs to decide what level of protection vs. comfort they are looking for in relation to situation they are expecting to encounter. If you're floating the upper C. full armor would be way over kill, but if you're in a low volume, steep, boulder creek... it sounds pretty damn smart.
Elbow pads are great for your elbows, but do nothing for your shoulders. Some light weight mesh motocross / downhill biking / etc cross over armor does both.
I have personally used Dainese mesh armor under my drysuit and was very happy with the results and fit. I also have a number of friends who have use Rockgardn - Flack Jacket or similar close fitting mesh armor tops under they're PFDs without wearing dry suits. As long as they are close fitting, mesh, and have a removable spinal protection (which is pretty redundant with a PFD and severely restricts movement) they should work fine. Just be sure to have a proper / safe fit.
My feeling is, if you expect you might be in the shit and would prefer not to have the shit beaten out of you... then why not try some armor under your PFD or drysuit. Just be sure to test swim in a safe place first to make sure its going to safely perform. If properly fitted, you never know its there.... until you need it, then you're glad it was.
While its true that scars are like tattoos with better stories, separated shoulders still suck and I'd rather be out having fun than telling 'war stories' about why I can't go out for the next few months.
Originally Posted by Kendrick
I do tend to wear a drysuit, so yeah.
I just hear about people borrowing protective gear from other sports like motocross. I also read about shoulder injuries on here a lot, and it gets me thinking, y'know.
What we need is a PFD that incorporates shoulder protection. I could easily see a roost deflector doubling as a PFD.