University of New England, USA
Title: More Than Just Turning Left: Physiological Responses of Motorsports Drivers
Biography: Dr. Lara Carlson
Heat strain experienced by motorsport athletes competing in National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) may be significant enough to impair performance or even result in a life-threatening accident. Unfortunately, heat strain during actual NASCAR race competitions has not been carefully quantified. The purpose of this investigation was to quantify the thermoregulatory and physiological strain associated with competitive stock car driving. Eight male stock car drivers (29 + 10 yr; 176.2 + 3.3 cm, 80.6 ± 15.7 kg, 17.5 ± 5.1 % fat) participated in sanctioned stock car races. Physiological measurements included intestinal core (Tc) and skin (Tsk) temperatures, heart rate (HR), blood pressure, and body mass before and after completion of the race. Pre-race Tc was 38.1 ± 0.1°C which increased to 38.6 ± 0.2°C post-race (p<0.05). Tsk increased from 36.1 ± 0.2°C pre-race to 37.3 ± 0.3°C post-race (p<0.05) whereas the core-to-skin temperature gradient decreased from a pre-race value of 1.96 ± 0.3°C to 1.28 ± 0.3°C post-race (p<0.05). HRs post-race were 80 ± 0.1% of the drivers’ age-predicted maximum HR. Heat strain associated with driving a stock car is significant. These findings suggest the need for heat mitigation practices and provide evidence that motorsport should consider strategies to improve cardiovascular fitness and acclimatization to better meet the thermoregulatory and cardiovascular challenges of motorsport competition.