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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 23:19 GMT 00:19 UK


Formula One drivers get RSI

Formula One drivers complain of tender wrists

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is usually associated with secretaries, typists and other people who use a keyboard but now Formula One racing drivers can be added to the list of those at risk.

Researchers, writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, report that 14 out of 22 drivers examined suffered from RSI. Nineteen of those examined competed in last year's Formula One World Championship.

All the drivers were assessed for the range of movement in the wrists and fingers, areas of tenderness, grip strength, and finger tip sensitivity.

They reported symptoms such as wrist pain and tenderness, numbness or tingling in the fingers of both hands at the end of each race.

The researchers believe that repeated exposure to vibration during the course of a race can lead to damage of the delicate nerves and joints in the wrist.

They suggest that wrist pads to absorb the shock could help to minimise the development of RSI under these conditions.

Pins and needles

The research was lead by Dr Emmanual Masmejean, an orthopaedic and hand surgeon from the French Society for Surgery of the Hand.

He said: "The drivers told me they had pins and needles and some tingling in their fingers at the end of the race. Others said they had some pain in the dorsal (back) part of their wrists.

"As the main symptoms appear only during effort, it means that it is only the start of an RSI and does not mean drivers will have problems in the future."

Dr Masmejean has calculated that during the French Grand Prix, a driver changes gear 1,800 times and is jolted by the steering wheel 2,500 times.

The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that all drivers who had raced before 1991 had complained of irritation in the palm of their hands, resulting from using the gear change lever.

But the introduction in the 1992 racing season of a semi-automatic gear change on the steering wheel meant that none of the drivers now reported palm irritation.

British researchers published evidence last year to show RSI was a medical condition caused by nerve damage in the hands. It is believed to affect some 200,000 people a year in Britain.

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