Headed out to the slopes over winter break? Or maybe hit the rink up for a ‘friendly’ game of hockey? Take a second to think about how plastics have played a vital role in the advances and performance of your skis, snowboard and hockey sticks.
While we typically talk about plastic innovations in the medical, packaging and automotive arenas, we don’t usually consider advances when it comes to sporting equipment. Plastics have enabled lightweight, durable, and responsive equipment, as well as tougher protective gear and better insulated, water resistant clothing.
Here are some exciting ways plastics have played in snowboarding, skiing and hockey…
|Photo courtesy of Canadian Plastics Industry Assoc.|
The boots snowboarders wear are made with plastics such as nylon that are chosen for durability and a high strength-to-weight ratio. These lightweight boots help keep your toes warm while making it easier to hike to the lift. And these boots often are secured to the board with plastic bindings.
For protective gear, snowboarders use plastic kneepads, wrist guards and hip pads, along with shock absorbing helmets made from hard and soft plastics. Goggles also have impact-resistant polycarbonate plastic lenses to shield eyes from the harsh elements of the slopes.
One latest advancement is the use of bioplastic to make the top sheet for some of its boards. Made partially from castor bean oil, Beans is a plastic that offers a great strength-to-weight ratio, which means it helps protect the board and makes it stronger and springier, according to the manufacturer. Beans is used in boards by Lib Tech.
Just like snowboards, the core of skis are wrapped in glass-reinforced plastics for durability and the bottom of the ski is coated with polyethylene plastic which helps in terms of gliding on the slopes. Skiers also use similar safety gear as snowboarders.
What's new? Ski bindings from companies such as KneeBindings, made with super-strong, carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, are designed to release a skier's foot laterally during a fall. KneeBindings says its product can reduce the chance of painful ligament injuries that might require surgery, compared to bindings that release only from the heel or toe.
Today, most hockey sticks are made with composite plastics, such as glass- and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, and tough plastic fibers such as Kevlar to improve their performance. Also, hockey skates are made with a wide variety of plastics to cushion the feet and provide sturdy ankle support for increased stability and agility on the ice.
However, robably the most important safety measure for hockey players is the protective gear to help absorb impact.
Hockey helmets are designed to have a crack-resistant outer plastic shell and various plastic foam liners to absorb impact and disperse force. More often than not, the helmet is equipped with a visor made with transparent, impact-resistant polycarbonate plastic. Other protective gear includes a mouth guard, a neck guard, gloves, elbow pads, shoulder pads, an athletic protector, padded shorts, and shin guards—all made with plastics.
What’s the latest and greatest? Several soft foam and rigid plastics combine to make comfortable yet reliable foot bed inserts for hockey skates. The manufacturer, Superfeet, says these inserts help keep a player's knees from bending inward while skating, which helps eliminate knee pain and foot cramps while delivering extra power and control on the ice.