As a Physiotherapist working in Motor sport drivers mostly come and see me because they are getting pain or discomfort in the race car and it's affecting their concentration.
Commonly I see: neck pain, shoulder or elbow pain (mostly coming from the neck called radicular arm pain), also; back pain, hip pain and leg numbness. Firstly I assess the driver's body to determine what type of injury we are dealing with. Certain biomechanical factors related to their body type may be causing the injury. Then we talk about driving position. Of course the type of race car, seat brand and other external factors such as a co-driver's size all factor into this. We look at belt and harness position, belt tightness and body position in the seat. Today I am going to summarise some basics relating to body position in the race seat and belt and harness fitting. There are other factors relating to pedal position, steering column plus hans device type and helmets that also factor. We'll leave that for another day.
David (Reynolds) and I put a little video together with a few tips we notice not all drivers think about. I notice in the clinic there is a strong correlation with drivers who get back pain or have a crash and injure their spine that they often report to me or I find they have gaps behind their body and the seat or are moving too much in the seat. We don't know for sure that this is the cause but we try to address these findings with what we do know. We'd love to see more research in this area. You can access the full version of our video here: https://youtu.be/sJc_1_F6XDI
Our main take home points are:
1. Gaps behind your body and the seat may increase your risk of injury in a crash or increase pain when driving. If you are moving in the seat you also won't get the correct feel of the car through your hips. And you'll work twice as hard bracing yourself so you'll get more tired and this will affect your performance.
2. The race seat may be too big or small for you or your seat insert may not be properly fitted.
3. When you get in the car wriggle your bottom right back in the seat then reach for the belts. ensure shoulder belts are over hans device and tighten. When the belts are tight we shouldn't be able to reach into the small of your back or your hips. So there should be no gaps.
4. David tightens shoulder belts again as he leaves the pits and often during a race. He finds his body may shrink (hydration loss) and with some movement in the seat he may need to re-tighten belts on track.
5. Don't be tempted to loosen your belts on track, as I know some drivers do. If you're uncomfortable come back to the pits and fix the problem properly.
5. Watch for 'submarining' where you are sliding down into the crotch belts. This could mean the buckle is too high. The buckle should below your belly button with lap belts over your pelvic bones.
4. Our video is of David in his Erebus Motorsport VF Commodore today, there is some variance with different cars so please seek help from your race engineer or equipment manufacturer for your personal situation.
6. Ask for more help from your race team or equipment manufacturer if you're unsure whether you are using your equipment correctly. And teams, crews. Don't always assume your driver knows what to do or what is safest. Ask drivers if you can double check their position and belts.
At High Line Active we do ergonomic assessments of your driving position. So if you have any questions about comfort and driving we can help. Get in touch.
Disclaimer: This is for general information only, refer to your race engineer or mechanic and consult your equipment manufacturer for guidelines relating to your personal situation.