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Most common injuries seen in Formula 1
September 28, 2021
Ale
Formula 1 racing is a sport that is constantly evolving, partly because of the latest technological advancements. The latest models of cars used in F1 races are manufactured and designed in such a way, to absorb the impact, when car crashes happen.
 
In F1, as the season approaches the aim is to peak in three key areas: fitness, strength, and weight. Hand-eye coordination and reaction times are also key components that are honed in a number of different ways and could be another separate topic altogether. 
 
CARDIO-RESPIRATORY FITNESS
Drivers are exposed to high temperatures, 3-5 times the force of gravity, carbon monoxide, noise, and vibration all of which increase the heart rate to around 65-90% maximum for the entirety of a race.
  • Core temperatures to 38-39.8 degrees Celcius and muscle fatigue, which leads to burning around the same amount of calories as for a half marathon.
To achieve this long-duration, low-intensity cardiovascular training; running, cycling or often a mixture of both is effective; 60-90 minutes at 50-60% maximal heart rate.
 
STRENGTH
Drivers now experience 3-5 times the force of gravity throughout a race, this equates to 3-5 times their body weight which they have withstand.
 
The neck is key and as the aerodynamic downforce of a race car increases more and more importance will be pinned on isometric neck strength in a driver's training. Think about the weight, the head is approximately 5k, the helmet corresponds to 2kg, plus the force of 3Gs on the head and neck it makes a total of 21kg. However, this changes with each track.
Last but not least,  in addition to the performance gains, there is a reduced risk of neck injuries. Neck strength can prevent sports-related concussions, which by some accounts is the biggest time loss injury in F1. 
 
Drivers identified upper body strength and in particular around the shoulder as their top physical demand. Followed by the neck, core, and legs.
We also need to consider what the lower limb needs to do: drivers use their right leg to accelerate and left leg to brake. If we use a practical example again, taking Monza, drivers have to brake from 340kph down to 97kph in 2.3 seconds which equates to 6Gs of braking force or up to 78kg of force that they need to produce into brake pedal, oh and that is 53 times during the race.
 
COMMON INJURIES
In the formula 1 driver, cumulative microtrauma may produce different pathologies at the level of the upper body, such as hand-arm vibration syndrome (carpal tunnel syndrome at the wrist and by cubital tunnel syndrome at the elbow). It can be exhibited as nerve disorders, such as nerve compression as part of an overuse syndrome, or osteoarticular lesions.
For the formula 1 driver, the frequency and intensity of vibration are such that they may provoke these lesions
After a race, around 60% of the drivers state that they experience bruises (predominantly on the lower body)
Also, around 50% of drivers suffer from neck sprains. It does not matter the type of car they are driving, the incidence of concussion is quite high for all drivers. It is essential to note that serious injuries associated with death are extremely rare, even if the driver’s bodies are subjected to large forces when they get involved in a crash.
During races, pilots can experience damage to their elbows, wrists, and hands, because when on track they perform multiple sharp turns.
The injuries recorded after the race emphasize that motor racing is a demanding sport.
 
However, injuries in NASCAR drivers and pit crew members are a consequence of the distinctive forces associated with each position throughout the course of the racing season. Understanding these forces and position-associated injuries is important for preventive measures and facilitates diagnosis and return-to-play decisions so that each team can function at its maximal efficiency.
 
Therefore as a physiotherapist, neck and upper body isometrics are a most. While also assessing the overall condition of the athlete in order to withstand such peaks of effort and velocities.
 
REFERENCES:
Koutras, C., Buecking, B., Jaeger, M., Ruchholtz, S., & Heep, H. (2014). Musculoskeletal injuries in auto racing: a retrospective study of 137 drivers. The Physician and sportsmedicine42(4), 80–86. https://doi.org/10.3810/psm.2014.11.2094
Masmejean, E. H., Chavane, H., Chantegret, A., Issermann, J. J., & Alnot, J. Y. (1999). The wrist of the formula 1 driver. British journal of sports medicine33(4), 270–273. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.33.4.270
Minoyama O, Tsuchida H. Injuries in professional motor car racing drivers at a racing circuit between 1996 and 2000. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2004;38:613-616.
Wertman, G., Gaston, R. G., & Heisel, W. (2016). Upper Extremity Injuries in NASCAR Drivers and Pit Crew: An Epidemiological Study. Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine4(2), 2325967116629427. https://doi.org/10.1177/2325967116629427