The HANS device (Head and neck support device) belongs to the group of head restraints. It is a compulsory safety gear required to be worn by the racing drivers in all major motorsports. These devices prevent the drivers from any severe injuries while participating in the fast motorsports. The risk of fatal injuries such as basilar skull fracture and others is also reduced by wearing a HANS device.
There are many other collar devices available in the market but the HANS is regarded as the most original and majorly used one. The primary objective behind the usage of HANS is to protect the head from any injury caused by striking on the front board during a crash or from excessive rotational movements.
The HANS collars are made from carbon fibre reinforced polymers. These devices have a 'U' shaped collar, the curve of which is placed behind the nape of the neck. It has two adjacent arms placed on the top of the chest on the pectoral muscles. It is supported by the shoulders and is directly attached to the helmet with the aid of anchors present on either side of the collar. The HANS device fixes the driver’s head in a fixed position (without restricting the necessary movement of the neck) leading to a decrease in sudden jerks and external force. It provides high-level protection to the musculoskeletal system and prevents the head injuries caused by unexpected bumps and crashes.
The elemental composition of the device includes a head pad, collar, tether and yoke. The head pad is aided with paddings which prevent injuries in the back of the head when hit. The collar region present below the pad covers the major neck part and has springs attached to ensure movement up to a specific limit. The other major parts include post catch, straps and the yoke padding. All the parts collectively decrease the pendulum momentum of the head and control the movement in case of a mishap.
The HANS device was designed in the 1980s by Dr. Robert Hubbard, an American scientist. Being a biomechanical crash engineer, he had a lot of experience and so developed his first prototype in 1985 and in 1989, his experiment shown approx. 80% success. In 1990, Hubbard and his brother-in-law Jim Downing (an American racing driver) formed a company named Hubbard Downing Inc. to manufacture & sell HANS device as most of the major racing safety companies have refused to manufacture the product.
The first devices were large and could be used by a limited number of drivers only as there were limited fits of the helmets available. By 1997, the device was modified to its current form with better fitting and compact size. The durability and strength of the new devices are better than the original structures. The yoke and head region are provided with additional padding for better protection to the drivers. Today, the usage of HANS's devices has been mandated by all major auto racing organizations and governing bodies.
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