I had a Jefferson fracture to my C-1 about a year ago and am lucky enough to have healed entirely (which is, I know, incredibly lucky, and I count my blessings for that daily).
I am now contemplating getting back in the saddle -- despite the scare, there is a hole in my life I can't fill. My ortho, who sees a lot of jockeys, has said that there is no medical reason to stop me from riding. He did caution that if I were to break the C-1 again, god forbid, I could be at an increased risk of spinal damage, but I understand the risk and have accepted it.
As an extra precaution, though, I am thinking of riding in an eventing vest with airbags as I understand some of those will inflate at the neck and therefore protect against compression fractures. (Obviously, I wear a helmet, especially after one saved my life.) I was wondering if anyone had any experience using these after a neck injury, or any other way of adding extra neck protection after an injury. I come from the hunter/jumper world so I am not particularly familiar with the vests and how they would inflate.
I would read up on the air vests on the eventing forum - there are some good points raised by folks about the actual safety benefit depending on when the vest actually deploys.
I'm personally put off of them because of the following scenario:
Incident occurs, lanyard does not get pulled (maybe the horse rolled with the rider so there was no separation from the saddle to make the lanyard pull out), rider is injured. Horse scrambles up and pulls lanyard. Air vest deploys AFTER the injury occurred, thus causing the rider to move which is pretty much exactly what you do not want to do with a possible spinal injury, since it can make things much worse.
Also, the movement and pressure of the vest during a fall on your neck and spine is a bit worrisome. No safety data AT ALL as of right now, and after a few years on the market you would think they would have some by now.
Personally, I'm waiting till there's research. Until they have data proving that inflating neck thingy won't make a neck injury worse I'm not going near one. I already have a screwed up neck, I don't need it made worse.
I'm no expert, but I think a Leatt brace might be an option as far as what you're looking for. They're originally designed for motocross and other 'extreme' bike sports, but the purpose they serve can be useful in more than just biking. http://www.leatt-brace.com/index.php...rt/bmx/dbx-pro