A first of its kind study into the effects of fatigue on drivers and riders in cross country rallying, published by the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, delivers a five-point plan to increase safety on events and save lives.
The first copy of the report, which is based on tests conducted by a research team during last month’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan, was presented to H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, by ATCUAE President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
Sheikh Nahayan, who visited the Desert Challenge bivouac camp site during the event, said, “This study, which is a successful partnership between the ATCUAE as our national motor sport authority and academic sports scientists, is a welcome initiative that delivers valuable results not just for motor sport, but indeed for our society as a whole. I encourage other sporting federations and clubs to follow this example and to engage in research that will make UAE sport safer and more enjoyable for all. The creation of new sports science knowledge in the UAE will add to the country’s growing reputation in global sport.”
The new report will now be delivered to the FIA, motor sport’s world governing body, and the FIM, the International Motorcycling Federation, as well as motor sport authorities and event organisers worldwide. The main findings of the ATCUAE research team were that competitors’ reactions deteriorated because of the effects of fatigue, lack of sleep and other factors including dehydration and concussion.
The main recommendations of the research team, which was led by Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre, Lecturer In Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology at the University of Limerick in Ireland, are for:
•Simple and quick methods of measuring dehydration to be introduced at all cross country rallies, including a daily weigh-in and weigh-out for competitors, coupled with monitoring of fluid intake
•Appointment of a Critical Incident Officer to manage serious incidents on event, provide de-briefing for those engaged in rescue and medical interventions, and any competitors involved
•Division of bivouac camp sites into four distinct areas, including a quiet accommodation zone to help competitors sleep well
•Computerised neurocognitive competitor tests for accurate diagnosis of concussion
•Pooling of data across events on an annual basis by the Chief Medical Officers, and an annual review by the FIA and FIM to the competitor community and national motor sport authorities
The report said, “Funding should now be made available to conduct a championship-wide longitudinal study across three cross country, Baja and marathon events in the 2015 and 2016 seasons to evaluate risk factors for competitors, including sleep, hydration, concussion and fatigue.”
It also calls for a second study, involving both technical and medical personnel, to be conducted on preventative strategies to deal with both spinal compression, concussion and dehydration among competitors. The study has been dedicated to Dubai-based British rider Cameron Waugh, who died in hospital after being injured in an accident on the opening desert stage on 6 April. It was the first fatal accident involving a competitor in the event’s 24-year history.
FIA Vice President Sulayem, said, “The findings are powerful and I hope will result in prompt changes to the regulations. More importantly they underline the value of research itself in helping us to improve motorsport safety. Over the event’s 24 year history, we have worked hard to constantly improve safety and the competitor experience. However, we can always do better and that is why I commissioned the experts to undertake this study.”
Over four days, competitors underwent a psychomotor vigilance task performed on an ipad in the pre-start area, while the number of hours sleep per night, and quality of sleep, were also recorded.
Dr. MacIntyre, who worked closely with ATCUAE Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sean Petherbridge and other members of the club’s research division, the Motorsport Knowledge Institute, said, “The main findings were that reaction times, on average, were increased by 9% across days 2-5 of the six-day event. When the latencies were categorised as high, medium and low, the results were even more compelling. On day one in the desert, two thirds of competitors’ responses had been categorised as high reaction times. By day four this had reduced to one third.”
Taking place from 3-10 April under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, the 2014 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge Powered by Nissan was the third round of the 2014 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars, and the first round of the 2014 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes and quads. It attracted 146 competitors from 34 countries.
The ATCUAE last year published a research document aimed at helping sports event organisers worldwide provide better protection for marshals and officials from the risk of dehydration.