Sports medicine specialist Jonathan Gelber breaks down Nascar concussion issues

Sports medicine specialist Jonathan Gelber breaks down Nascar concussion issues

Nascar is taking drastic action to combat the unprecedented rise in concussions among Cup Series drivers this year in the Next Gen car.

After several drivers publicly criticized Nascar for concussion issues following incidents involving Kurt Busch (Pocono) and Alex Bowman (Texas), the sanctioning body held a crash test and will have new parts for its Next Gen car in 2023. While some racers said this is a change that should have been addressed before the car was unveiled in February, others are embracing the change.

“This stuff takes time,” Corey LaJoie said this week on the Stack up pennies podcast. “No one is at greater risk or harm than Nascar. When we designed this car, safety was above and beyond every checkpoint in this car.

The rear clip is the part of the car in question after both incidents. Busch’s career could be cut short due to the severity of his concussion, with a press conference scheduled for Saturday at his Las Vegas home track. Meanwhile, Bowman has missed the last two races and will miss the next three, knocking him out of the championship chase with the #48 car.

“The overall goal of these changes appears to be to create a better crumple zone behind the driver and to allow those components at the rear to dissipate more energy in a crash to have less impact on the driver. driver,” Bozi Tatarevic said of the upcoming changes. to the Next Gen car in Road & Track. “The changes will occur in three main areas of the rear of the car, which include the rear bumper struts, the rear clip and the rear of the center section.”

The two concussions are the driver’s most visible brain injuries since Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion in 2016, as well as Ryan Newman’s hospitalization in 2020 after a final lap wreck that nearly claimed his life in the Daytona 500. But the two were four years apart, and multiple drivers haven’t had to miss races due to brain damage in close proximity to each other for about two decades.

Dr. Jonathan Gelber, sports medicine specialist and author of Tiger Woods’ Back and Tommy John’s Elbow: Injuries and Tragedies That Changed Careers, Sports and Society, studied Nascar’s safety initiatives since the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001.

“Whenever driver safety is addressed, we should applaud those who seek to do so and especially those who use science rather than reaction to solve a problem,” Dr Gelber said. “We saw this reaction after the death of Dale Earnhardt.”

In Dr Gelber’s 2019 book, he breaks down Formula 1’s reaction to safety changes following the death of superstar Ayrton Senna, which preceded Earnhardt’s death by less than seven years.

Nascar and Formula 1 acted immediately to improve the safety of its racing cars. Mortality was a well-known danger in motorsports, but the two incidents created a whole new awareness for racers. How could they test the limits of cars without risking their lives?

Drivers in all forms of motorsports quickly began wearing the HANS device to protect their heads and necks in the early 2000s. To this day, racers are still trying to find ways to protect their heads. Nascar champ Joey Logano has revealed he’s been trying to fill all the space he can between his helmet and the HANS device.

“I feel like the meeting was very open and honest, which was necessary for the drivers to let go of their real concerns,” Logano said of an Oct. 8 meeting Nascar had with pilots in Charlotte. “The frustrating thing is that it took way too long to get this meeting. This meeting should have been on the Monday after Kurt’s accident, not waiting for Alex to have his accident.

The Next Gen car was Nascar’s first major change to its car since the 2007 Tomorrow Car. cars to street vehicles, inspired by sports cars.

Dr Gelber, analyzing the Busch and Bowman crashes, said: “Concussions are also particularly tricky because they can’t be seen, so fans, drivers and teammates can’t always appreciate the injury. Not all concussions require loss of consciousness either.

“There are also things called subconcussive episodes that add up over time – think of training as a boxer or an MMA fighter or a long career with endless sessions in the gym being done knock on the head. Or football players during training. It’s not just the big game or the big race where a specific brain injury occurs.

As Nascar pushes ahead with safety changes to the Next Gen car for 2023, it will be one of the most-watched sports stories of the new year.

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