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Are IndyCar Drivers Suffering Injury from a Poor Design?


They say that the modern version of the IndyCar is one of the safest vehicles ever used in the series competition. History has shown that both the NASCAR and IndyCar Racing series have made great strides in the effort to protect their drivers. However; one key design element may be contributing to driver injuries and the steering wheel may be the culprit.

Apparently the design of the controls while the driver holds them when driving is not an issue. According to reports the problem is when a wreck occurs. The jarring of the controls actually causes damage to the wrist. If you've never seen a steering wheel in an IndyCar picture a butterfly style control similar to an arcade game or even an airplane.

IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe broke his wrist last season and even had to go under the knife to repair the damage. Briscoe says that the cars a safer, racing is exciting, but the steering controls can do some serious damage!

"I think Indy car racing is so exciting in part because you see occasional wheel-to-wheel contact but it doesn't put you out of the race," Briscoe said. "In those occasions when you have impact and the wheel slips out of your hands, the injuries aren't coming from when you're holding onto the wheel it's when the wheel smacks your wrist."

Is it a Design Issue?

The short answer is yes. The other side of the coin is that the sanctioning body realizes that it is an issue and work is already underway to correct the problem. According to the series a new design and damping system is being tested currently and that any advancements would be incorporated when ready. One design dates back to medieval times according to IndyCar safety consultant Dr. Terry Trammell.

"It's a whole new concept because no one has ever done it," Trammell said. "The idea is to make it small enough and light enough and flexible enough for drivers to push all the buttons on their steering wheel, and with a thin covering that would protect their wrists. The thumb is the most frequently injured part of the hand, and designing a brace that keeps the thumb at normal excursion but not any further has been a challenge.

"The ideal one would be what a jouster wears to hold the pole so it doesn't rip out of his hand. They figured that out in medieval times that it took the load off of thumb and wrist. It just happened to be made of metal." 

Image: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images 

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