TFS' five Minutes with.....Doctor John Bodnar
By Steve "TFS" Bruhn


The Asterisk Mobile Medical Center's lead emergency physician is Dr. John Bodnar, who's "day job" is ER in the San Diego area. He's been following the Leatt Brace issue of course, even showing them at rider's meetings as he often does with other safety issues.  As the responsible physician assigned to professional supercross and motocross, it's up to Bodnar to take the lead on health and safety issues and keep the AMA and teams informed on what they need to know. Bodnar took the time to get the "Hats Off" device put in the rules as mandatory. (This is a ballon under the helmet foam that can be inflated to remove a helmet from an injured rider instead of pulling on the helmet.)  This looked like a time to ask Bodnar what is going on with Leatt and get the story on how it's seen officially, and of course some comments on other safety equipment too.

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Doc Bodnar and the Asterisk Mobile Medical Center

photo TFS

TFS: I know you are following the Leatt Brace issue as close as the fans, well maybe, where do we start?

Dr. Bodnar:  The word should be cautious optimism. It's a new product. They have done their homework. The data and crash test information seems very legit and valid. Now it is just a matter of getting them out there and have people try them, like any other safety device, to see if you have any problems with it, problems that you only find with long term testing.

How fast should an established series like supercross move? It seems like NASCAR moved very quickly with their neck protection after Earnhardt.
The problem with this thing is that it is so brand new, there is nothing else like it out there. Just that alone, and in medicine in general, you have to be sure you are not jumping too soon into something that may have other problems. Just out of the box, it looks very good. That is why we are suggesting it at this point. As far as making it mandatory, we need more time.

Not to take anything away from Bailey and his appeal to use them, as the lead doctor for the Asterisk rig, isn't this thing your responsibility, in other words, you are the go-to guy on safety issues for this sport, the guy that must be pro-active and take the lead on things like this? True or false?
Pretty true. The week before this I showed the Leatt at a rider's meeting and the week before that I was chastising people for not using chest protection. I would like if anyone has a medical issue that they would come to me. We take this really seriously. We want to do things that are going to make people safer and healthier in the long run, make sure we do everything, but do no harm first.

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The Leatt-Brace™ is an injection produced glass reinforced nylon or carbon fiber and Kevlar neck brace system


This year we sure had a lot of people with chest issues, ribs, lungs, Reed's sternum, people are getting banged up. Is there a better way to make chest protectors to address this impacts?
There are several different designs out there, and US standards are different from European standards, they don't allow the hard plastic ones. They are worried about injuries with the plastic. I talked about this 2 weeks ago. Protect your investment. You worked hard to get where you are. Don't throw it away for some injury that could have been avoided.

Do these things run in groups or something?
Even in ER, I will get three heart attacks in a night, then I don't get one for a couple of months. A few years ago, Sorby and a few other guys all got thumped in the chest pretty hard at the same race. I don't see it as a trend. It is just a spike. Next week it my be something else.

Is it OK to add helmets to this topic? Isn't the foam like a really old idea? Isn't there something better for this sport specifically?
The biggest problem with, and I am working with a group doing autopsies on crashed helmets, and impact studies. We are seeing a difference in the type of injuries we get in the dirt vs injuries on the street. The problems with the Snell and the other standards is they are based on hard impact on pavement, not dirt impacts.

Like hitting the wall at 80mph, that sort of thing?
What we are finding is guys are getting knocked out at much lower speeds. Our bottom line feeling is the helmets are too stiff. They are made for huge off-the-wall, from-the-ceiling impacts, but I have seen guys barely fall over in the dirt and get a concussion.

Is that data you can take action with? Helmets are not going to be easy to touch at this point.
I have given the study group helmets every week and a rundown of what the injury was, how bad a concussion was and what does the helmet look like afterwards.

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The Moto GPX


As fans read this stuff and feel motivated to act or comment, how do they follow this? What's the process?
The biggest hurdle is Asterisk has only been here like 5-6 years as the official medical group for motocross and supercross. Just to get the Hats-Off device mandatory took three years of prodding because there was no established committee for safety. Now we are getting the ball rolling to show we can do things.

So Hats-Off was like a test case?
Yeah, that was to show we can do it. This has established a procedure so for the next thing we know our steps. It makes it easier to step through a process.

Why does something like Hats-Off seeming not need the same caution as a Leatt, or does it?
There were several options out there that looked similar, but the others didn't work as well. It's like how many Hans devices can you have? We picked this one. If others meet our standard, they can be used as well. It was a three year battle in the beginning.

So as far as making a Leatt Brace mandatory, do you anticipate acceptance on some timeline?
Like I said, what I have seen so far is that it will be an excellent device. It's going to save a lot of people injuries that could have received without it. It's going to take a year or two of looking at it to make sure there is no downsides that show up. If we start seeing no one that uses one gets injured and the guys not using them are, then you will see us pushing to make in mandatory in a year or two.

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That's it for now from TFS.  To read more from Steve and get an insiders  look into the weekend of events surrounding the Amp'd Mobile World Supercross GP series, visit   Until next time, good luck with your training and, as always, VT can be reached anytime at .  In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section, your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.