Safety always of primary importance in MotoGP

Following inaccuracies in an earlier post pertaining to safety in MotoGP below is an article showing the role that Dorna has played in improving rider safety in the sport and how it is a constant goal of the sport to provide as safe an environment as possible.

At the beginning of this year Dorna made changes to their safety procedures. The MotoGP promoter formed an agreement with BMW to provide two “Medical Rapid Intervention Vehicles.”

These cars are used to provide speedy assistance to the trackside personnel, who will make the initial assessment of the rider’s condition, in the event of a fallen rider needing urgent medical assistance. The MRIV will have a full-time crew of doctors experienced in resuscitation and emergency care. The MRIV is deployed at the discretion of the race director in consultation with the chief medical officer. The car and can only happen after a session has been red flagged.

In addition to this Dorna also provide a permanent team of doctors experienced in the immediate management of significant trauma. This team was brought in to supplement the medical personnel that each race track has to provide for any MotoGP event. The Dorna supplied team of doctors will provide support trackside until the rider has been moved to the medical centre or transferred to a local hospital.

In the wake of the recent deaths of Marco Simoncelli and Shoya Tomizawa safety within the sport was placed at even higher level of scrutiny and Dorna improved their procedures by providing additional full-time medical care for each race. The decision to have the permanent team of doctors to provide support at trackside is to be applauded as it means that there is a level of comfort for both teams and riders that they have familiarity with the doctor dealing with the injured party.

However this system is not perfect and improvements can be made. At last weekend’s Indianapolis Grand Prix we saw numerous examples of how safety is an ongoing concern for the sport. The race weekend at Indianapolis saw lots of crashes across the three classes and the riders offered the very best in care by trackside marshals and the medical staff at the track with the exception of Hector Barbera.

The Spaniard, who was racing with a broken leg, high-sided from his Pramac Ducati and landed heavily bringing out the red flag and halting the opening practice session. When a rider has suffered a crash such as this the trackside marshals generally assess the situation and if the rider is unable to move from the accident site on his own he will be stretchered away from the accident to the trackside access roads where, if necessary, an ambulance will be available to take the rider to the medical centre.

At Indianapolis however Barbera was unable to walk away from the crash. The track side marshals lifted him by the arms and legs and moved him away from the track. It was later found that he had broken a vertebrae in his back and it is remarkable to think that with such an injury that Barbera was moved in such a manner.

It goes without saying that it was very lucky that Barbera did not suffer any additional injuries following the treatment that the received from the marshals. With the session red-flagged there was the possibility of the trackside marshals being assisted by the new MRIV in moving Barbera from the scene of his crash. However the marshals took it upon themselves to move Barbera.

The manner in which they did so was unacceptable. At the very least the fact that common procedures for stabilising the spine and then moving Barbera on a stretcher were not followed means that this incident needs to be looked at in the future by Dorna.

The images of Barbera being carried away by the arms and legs were relayed around the world through the likes of Twitter and placed the sport in a very dark light. The efforts being made by Dorna are commendable and in light of the deaths of Simoncelli and Tomizawa it is clear that Dorna are making steps to provide a better framework of support for medical staff. However the Barbera incident highlighted that more needs to be done.

Dorna’s decision to offer support cars and support services to the medical teams onsite means that they have joined other series by bringing a crew of staff to each race to work with the local medical teams and provide assistance for the doctors that will treat the riders in case of a serious injury.

The Indianapolis incident however showed that while Dorna are working hard to provide this infrastructure it is still imperative that the MotoGP organiser ensures that the marshals, all volunteers from the local motorsport federation, are receiving the best education and training possible.

Last weekend we saw that the training provided to the marshals at Indianapolis was not sufficient. That it was an isolated incident, in a weekend filled with accidents where correct procedures were followed, does not diminish the importance of learning from this incident.

All motorsport organisers, need to ensure that wherever they race they are doing so with sufficient medical support in place and with marshals trained in how to deal with injured racers.

Each series organiser has an obligation to provide as safe an environment as possible in which to go racing. Dorna has made strides this year to provide better medical support for MotoGP but it also has to also ensure that the volunteers-without which racing could not occur-have received the very best training so that the risk of a serious injury to a competitor is reduced.

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