Behind the scenes F1 – New technology set to help doctors deal with driver concussion after accidents
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  08 Jan 2017   |  2:20 am GMT  |  18 comments

The danger of concussion in sport has become a major news topic in recent years and this is of particular interest in F1 as several leading drivers have suffered from it following high speed accidents, including Fernando Alonso.

The issue was discussed at the recent FIA medical summit in Vienna highlighting evidence that new quick response technology is set to help medics with their task of identifying and dealing with the condition.

Concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury, is a potential problem for Formula 1 drivers involved in crashes and other incidents. Force India’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Alonso have both been forced to miss races during their F1 careers as a result of being diagnosed with mild TBI.

American Football players have had widely covered problems with concussion and in recent seasons World Rugby has taken steps to tackle the issue in rugby union.


But according to a report in AUTO+ Medical, the FIA’s International Journal of Motor Sport Medicine, new technology could help doctors diagnose concussion with greater accuracy just a few minutes after a player or driver suffers a serious accident.

During a round-table discussion on concussion in motorsport at the FIA summit, Professor Steve Olvey, the Motor Sport Director at the Sports Medicine Concussion Center of the University of Miami, introduced the I-Portal PAS (Portable Assessment System-integrated head-mounted display and eye-tracking) goggles, which examine eye movement to help diagnose concussion.

The goggles are a smaller, portable version of previous technology that involved a large chair and moving objects that patients had to focus on. The I-Portal PAS goggles can be used anywhere, including race tracks, and the test takes just five minutes to complete. It can also provide objective quantification to diagnose concussion on the spot.


Speaking about the device, Olvey said: “It’s the coming thing. It is going to replace the other tests or maybe go in tandem with them. You could actually do it on site [over] five minutes and you’d have your diagnosis.

“It is clear up to 95 per cent [accuracy]. These tests can diagnose concussion on the spot. The goggles are made to be much more attractive [than the chair test], they’re smaller and they’re reasonably priced so they can be used by racing organisations, teams and so forth.”

F1 Medical Delegate Professor Jean-Charles Piette also spoke at the conference and he explained that a driver returning to action following concussion is not a mere formality.

Sergio Perez Monaco 2011

The tests a driver has to undergo before returning to the cockpit are important to make sure they don’t suffer any further damage after sustaining concussion. Perez, who was hospitalised after crashing his Sauber in qualifying for the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix, missed the next race in Canada after feeling ill in FP1. McLaren test driver, and former Sauber racer, Pedro de la Rosa, replaced him for the race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Piette said: “It’s not a two-minute play [time] and we need to have a complete chart with the past history [of the patient], the past symptoms and current ones – if any – a clinical detailed examination including balance, and an ImPACT test.

“Afterwards there will be a decision but before then it is important, in my opinion, to have a chat with the driver and no witnesses just to ensure that he really wants to come back to the track and is not forced to do so by his team.”

Researcher calls for more studies into female driver science

With growing numbers of female drivers entering motorsport events, a medical researcher has requested greater discussion and more scientific studies on the topic of female driver science.

Dr Edward Potkanowicz helped to coin the term ‘driver science’, which is defined as the objective and scientific examination of a driver’s physiological response to the cockpit from which data-based recommendations can be made to improve driver safety, tolerance and performance.

In a scientific study testing the physiological responses of female motorsport athletes to the environment of the cockpit that was also published in AUTO+ Medical, he wrote: “From a practical and applied perspective the value of the current case study is that it represents the beginning, and necessary first step, of a new discussion and a starting point for more inclusive work in the area of driver science.”

Susie Wolff

The new study, which involved testing the physiology of four female drivers before, during and after a stint at the wheel of a race-spec closed cockpit Porsche 944 or Porsche 924, found that female drivers face a similar risk of developing heat stress that could lead to potentially dangerous performance deficits as male drivers. But Potkanowicz explained that recommendations on how female drivers should prepare for the stress of the cockpit are not as well known as they are for men.

“Current general recommendations for managing uncompensable heat stress include adequate hydration, a higher level of fitness, and reduced body fat,” he wrote. “However, given the cited differences between men and women with respect to uncompensable heat stress, one must consider gender differences in the approach to driver training and preparation.”

What do you make of the discussions on concussion in motor sport and female driver science? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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i found this off topic but quite interesting.


Aveli very off topic.
Stick with the article rather than go off script.


I applaud your trying to raise the number of comments on this “technical” piece by injecting a bit of Lewis controversy 🙂


that is not the case at all. i’m simply impressed by the fact that schumacher needed to accumulate a large team of people to help him win championships while hamilton does it without the help of a specially accumulated team.


Are you sure it wasn’t more that Schumacher accumulated a team and motivated them and provided feedback to drag the Ferrari team from mid field runners to championship dominating team, while Lewis waltzed into a winning team with a winning car and went on to win in it?


Exactly. Well stated Aveli 👍


Rugger players are the most prevalent to head injuries. In my Uni days in the early 1990s, I’ve played on after being hit by two second row tanks , knocked out for a few minutes. In those days it was a bucket of cold water and a magic sponge. It was a few days after I started getting nose bleeds and throbbing headache that just would stop. Only after a head scan the found I’d fractured and chipped a part of my eye socket. Was benched for half the season. But I was lucky.
American football players have the head gear but the impact head on head is intense.
The only extreme sports like Boxing Kykoshinkai Karate Thai Boxing and MMA are more hazardous.
It’s good to see F1 and other sports are coming together to tackle ( excuse the pun) head injuries and concussion.


BK, my youngest plays rugby, and they are all over the concussion issue. Pleasing for me as a parent, but not for him when he has to miss games just because of a knock to the head that he has self diagnosed as trivial!
P.S, I’m not sure those sponges actually have magical powers….


Just another step in sanitising the show.
I honestly don’t care if a F1 driver ends up with scrambled eggs for a brain.
Risk verses rewards.
I’ll drive an F1 car and get paid loads for doing so.
I’ll accept I might get a bumped head.
It’s just another step in making the drivers seem less heroic less impressive and as such less interesting. If a driver seems ordinary then what he does will also seem ordinary and therefore make the show less impressive.
Risk verses reward.


Stop slinging that thing around; put it back in and zip up! You’re gonna hurt someone.


Once there was a german winning the english cup with a broken neck… Would the new tool had helped him? No, it doesn’t work for these type of injuries.
It is thought for the type of accidents where the driver is able to leave the car alone to do a quick test. If he isn’t able to leave alone, the amount of movement is to be kept at a minimum to make no extra damage to a broken neck for example. So the tool is of no use here.
The new tool isn’t preventing the accident, it is just a quicker way to test for hidden injuries. So not much loss of ‘heroism’.
Risks are sadly in any sport. This weekend at an indoor tournament in our district a teenage soccer player stumbled and collided head on with the wall… coma.
My daughters are vaulting, you know doing acrobatics on a horseback, often riding hanging at the side heads down, legs up. Or the stand on a horseback and a smaller girl standing on the shoulders of the first girl. The only thing which really makes me afraid is when i see a photographer using a flash.
Kids have to learn how to fall in a harmless way, doing no sports and falling untrained as a more heavy adult can result in ugly accidents. You have to weight the risks.


While I’d agree that in some aspects that F1 has gone a bit too far with ‘sanitising the show’ such as doing 10 laps behind a safety car when it gets a bit wet (although this can be blamed on the useless wet tyre) this kind of attitude towards driver safety has no place in F1. I second what Michael G has posted in response!


seriously ?
by your logic they should even race without helmets : that would make them more heroic (and easily recognizable) and would also free several seat each season for rookie drivers …..


That has to be the most idiotic post I’ve ever read on this site.


Whether drivers get medical attention after a crash has nothing to do with “the show” and is a matter of human decency.


Quite agree 👍


As far as i know this test can be done only if you are absolutely sure that the driver has no broken neck, backbone or skull because the helmet has to be removed?
But it could be useful to have a law that each driver involved in a crash has to undergo this test even no injuries are visible. So no longer angry drivers vanishing after a crash, they first have to undergo medical checks?


I’m assuming they’ll be no women drivers for the time being with the new 2017 regulations?

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