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Discussion Starter #1
I am a beginning kayaker and I seem to be at a crossroads. I recently witnessed a friend of mine take a nasty bump to the head breaking his nose and leaving him with two black eyes. Since this incident I have been very tentative in the water. I have considered a facemask and I was wondering if anyone with some kayaking experience would be able to enlighten me on this topic. I have seen several people wearing these for protection, but I am sure they are tackling more difficult runs than someone like me who is tooling around the playparks. Any feedback is appreciated!
 

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It's a pretty easy decision: if you like your face, get a face mask!

I once hit my helmet on a rock while window-shuttering and got a
NASTY bruise from the helmet digging into my cheek. If I hadn't had
a facemask...

Alek
 

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I got a hockey helmet with a lower half cage and visor. The visor got all scratched up and don't use anymore but the cage is great. I replaced the hard foam with 1/2 mini-cell and it fits and works great. The cage is removable with 3 snaps too.

MIke
 

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facemask

I wear glasses when i kayak, so using a facemask is great for me. there are disadvanages to it like snagging, but its a risk I take to keep me from loosing, breaking, or scratching my glasses. hitting a rock with a mask is far better than hitting a rock w/out.
 

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An in between idea would be to get a helmet that has a hard visor. The visor offers some degree of face protection, but not as much as a facemask.
 

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Face masks and neck injuries

Allgood,

A good friend and one of mine is an ER doc who has been paddling since the mid-1980s. Even though he's seen a lot of nasty boating injuries (primarily on others), he is still not a fan of face masks. If a face mask actually makes contact with something on the bottom (presumably the reason you'd want one), there is a reasonable chance that it can snag on whaterver it is contacting. Even a momentary snag can pull your head back with enough force to cause some nasty hyper-extension neck injuries.:shock: That being said, of course it can't be much fun to have this same experience without a face mask either.

Based on this info, I've decided that a good-fitting helmet without a face mask is the way to go for me. I have also always made a point of getting forward the moment that I flip and using that posture and good roll technique to stay protected.

Just my two cents.

Be safe and see you on the water!

-D
 

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Face Protection Options

I agree with the decision to use a face mask, although I don't use one currently. I expect to switch over to one after completing the "on camera" kayak segments of Savage Snow.
There seem to be limited good options for helmets that don't come down over the ears.
I have seen some people wearing an Itech hockey face cage that attaches at 2 points on top and seats against the chin with a padded chin cup. One wearer I spoke with liked it a lot. The chin contact was disconcerting to me, but if it is good for a 60 mile per hour heavy hockey puck...
http://www.itech.com
Their website is painfully inefficient.
Here are some links for immediate gratification showing the Itechs and competing brands.

http://skate-buys.com/cagesshields.html
http://skate-buys.com/itrbeiiifulc1.html
http://skate-buys.com/ccm480chromf.html

There is a photo of an interesting (no chin contact) cage used for kayak polo if you scroll down on this page.
http://www.the-watershed.co.uk/acatalog/The_Watershed_Polo_15.html

This place in Ft. Collins says they sell kayak polo face masks, but I could not pull up any images.
http://www.kayakpolo.com/ftcollins/polo_gear.shtml

The simple 2 bar cages that attach to ear coverage Pro-Tec helmets look like a good start if you are comfortable with a plastic helmet. I have been told that some rig those cages at an odd angle to attach to carbon fiber, earless helmets. I wonder how that works.
Here are some other products for Cascade ear protection helmets.
The chin bar option looks interesting to me.
http://www.hardheadedsports.com/kayaking.html

And last but not least...
Here is another interesting item with a Darth Vader Theme. Check out the Stormtrooper model on this website.
http://www.fnaheadgear.com/

As you can see, I have been accumulating data on this subject. I will definitely paddle with face protecton eventually. But for the film, it obscures identity too much. Unlike a kayaking movie, the narrative of Savage Snow requires a lot of closeups during the water scenes.

I haven't had any face damage yet in my short kayaking career, but an event described here caused me to think more seriously about face protection.
http://www.savagesnow.com/whitewater_kayaking/pdhtml_kayak_paddling/pd036_kayaking_royal_gorge.html

-Dan
http://www.savagesnow.com/whitewater_kayaking/1_learning_to_kayak_photos.html
 

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This topic has been done before, and the only real disadvantage I ever heard (besides the image factor) was the "snag" problem Holebait describes. Someone put out a query for stories about personal or second hand experiences with a face mask getting snagged, and not one person posted a story about a face mask snag (there were however a number of stories about torn up faces). Actually the other issue I heard voiced before was interference with vision.

That said I don't wear one, but I suppose if I ever stepped up to some serious creeking I'd give it some serious thought.
 

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Snagging a Face Cage

One more thing.
On the subject of face cages snagging on something...
Of course that is possible, but has anyone ever heard of it happening.

We know people smash their faces on rocks on a semi-regular basis.
Has anyone ever heard of someone snagging their face cage?
Of course, it could be a rare event because so few of us actually use face cages.
I wonder if the wireless designs might be less prone to snagging.

A few close call, imminent face impact experiences cause me to feel face protection is the way to go, at least on the more diffcult and boulder chute, creeky stuff I am getting into now.

Kayaking can be dangerous and unexpected things can happen no matter what we do, but I would be interested in hearing about other face impact and cage experiences that people have had.
-Dan
http://www.savagesnow.com/whitewater_kayaking/1_learning_to_kayak_photos.html
 

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has anyone ever actually heard of an injury caused by a facemask snagging?? i think this reason for NOT wearing a mask is a bunch of bull.
 

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I wear a full face helmet with good coverage on the back of the head and ears, too. I'm a cross-over from climbing and before that mountainbiking and motorcycling. I've always worn helmets and I have broken at least one helmet in every sport I've participated in. I would be either dead, retarded, or toothless if I didn't always wear helmets.

Here's my two cents. Buy a a full face helmet. Colorado creeks and rivers are shallow and have a disproportionate amount of sharp blast rock. I think the "snag" argument is pretty groundless. Furthermore, once you get used to wearing a full face helmet you won't even notice it. It takes longer to put your noseplugs on or pick your nose, but that's it. It's also handy for brush bashing. Dental work is extremely expensive. Lastly, if you actually had the extremely shitty luck of getting your helmet snagged on an underwater tree branch your number was up anyway.
 

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The story posted by Cheyenne ilustrates why I use one. That guy was lucky he wasn't knocked out and drowned. In addition to saving teeth and preventing broken noses, I believe the facemask will cusion a blow to the face that could otherwise knock you out. I got a class II concusion faceplanting in the terrainpark while skiing. I'm sure a rock could do alot worse.

My facemask has also saved me from several paddleshaft whacks to the face. I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes a rock will grab the blade that is in the water, wrenching the shaft from my upper hand and the paddle will come back and whack me in the facemask. I'm sure I would have had a couple broken noses by now without it.
 

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How strong are those fast-tex buckles on helmets? If you were to snag (which seems unlikely to impossible) I think there would be enough force to break the buckle. Then your problem would be to get out of the river without a helmet to protect your head.
 

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It boils down to balancing risk. In this sport, you need to make the choice.

Every exposed loop on your gear is another opportunity to snag something if you find yourself in the wrong place. It could be a beaner, a shoulder strap of your pfd, or a facemask. Odds pretty slim they will, but if they do it could be a real bad day.

Keep informed, make your choices, paddle safe.

I have busted my nose. It taught me to always tuck! I still don't wear a facemask. If I did more creeking, I might choose to.
 

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Not clear cut

In response to an earlier request for examples of "snagging" injuries, here is a blurb from the ER doc and paddler I referred to earlier. Hard to tell all of the factors at play here, but draw your own conclusions.

"I personally know one person who suffered a C-2 fracture on the forks of the Kern river, and have read two brief written reports of cervical
fracture/death presumably resulting from violent hyperextension injuries
with face-masks. One of these two reports also listed hypothermia as a
cause of death. Three cases does not sound like much, but given the
relative lack of statistical analysis and reporting in this sport, it
probably reflects a problem. This is especially relevant given the fact
that face-masks are utilized by a considerable minority of boaters. There
are also a plethora of anecdotal reports which may fall into the realm of
urban legend. Interestingly, helmets with lips do not seem to subject the
head and neck to the same mechanics as a face-mask, thus a single bar across the mid-face region, set somewhat close to the face, may provide a similar degree of forehead and mid-face protection, and negate the effect of the lower part of the cage, which hypothetically may be responsible for the extreme hyperextension/distraction injuries. We may never know.

Certainly, a facemask can provide protection against facial lacerations and dental trauma, two of the most common injuries in kayaking, however, when they are providing this coverage (protecting you), this is presumably when they are subjecting you to the risk of a hyperextension injury. If you think about the mechanics, a single face bar is likely to cause only a moderate hyperextension, whereas a low-setting bar below the chin will cause a extreme degree."
 

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If you are wearing a hockey face mask you have nothing to worry about because those rip free very easy. Two lightweight screws in plastic at the top. I think it is a very bad idea to wear a helmet designed specifically for one sport and use it for another one. Especially a sport that sees so many players retire every year from a concusion. On the ice a concussion means you get carted off, on the river its much worse. Hockey helmets are not that substantial and I believe poorly suited for kayaking.
 

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FNA Headgear X-Stream

In reference to my post which includes hockey face cage links...
The guys I saw using the hockey products were actually wearing kayak specific helmets.
They just attached the "chin cushion" hockey face cages to the helmets.
I do not have a strong opinion about the pros and cons of such a cage now.

I am becoming more interested in the FNA X-Stream helmet as I dig deeper into this subject today.
http://www.fnaheadgear.com/

Here is a review of it on boof.com
http://www.boof.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=64&sort=7&cat=998&page=1

-Dan
http://www.savagesnow.com/whitewater_kayaking/1_learning_to_kayak_photos.html
 

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Less than a year ago a group of paddlers and I went thru a sieve and over some nasty drops by mistake. I have a full head protection helmet from sweets and a cascade facemask and there is no doubt it saved my life. After going thru the sieve and being unable to roll up I started going off drops. The first one pulled me to the back deck and from there I began to take deathly hits to my body and face. It was so bad that I ended up with two broken ribs, two broken bones in on shoulder, another broken bone in the other shoulder that caused the tendon to be torn, and injury to my neck. The grab loops on my Huck are bent in. I started wearing a helmet with a facemask two months earlier when I took a small hit to the forehead after my old helmet rolled back. I am not going to tell anybody to wear a facemask I just know that it saved my life. Dan Crain died on that trip. Was it because he didn’t have a facemask, I don’t know? All I really know is I have never been beat down that bad and Dan took no less of a beating. Two others in the group also went the way we went but they were facing backwards they fared the best. There is no true answer to your question paddle awhile and see what you like. You can try and look at as many statistics as you like, but lets be real. The more times you go upside down, the greater the chance you will hit your head or face. The question is how hard. I have hit both more times than I can count its just the last time was really frigen hard. Have fun and be safe so you can have fun another day that’s really what its all about.

Lyle
 
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