Motorsport medicine as an orthopod

By Tricia Campbell
Orthopaedic Registrar, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

My day job is as a trainee orthopaedic surgeon. I work in a hospital delivering both elective and trauma care. For the last ten years, I have also been a motorsport doctor. In my free time, I can be found trackside watching cars go round a racetrack! It is a fantastic way to spend a weekend.

My biggest achievement, in motorsport, is being invited to be a part of the medical team for Formula 1 at Silverstone. As a medic you have the privilege of a money can’t buy, trackside view of the race. Formula 1 is obviously the glamorous part of motorsports, but it only takes place in the UK for one weekend every summer.

There are lots of different types of motorsports that happen across the country most weekends from March to October. I have worked at Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Lydden Hill covering a wide variety of events from truck racing to Minis and British Touring Cars.

My local track is Croft Circuit, which has a real family feel. Everyone knows each other and is very welcoming. The security team will recognise your car and wave you in. You start the day having a tea with one of the many members of the multidisciplinary team.

Aside from building a great network of friends and getting to watch live motorsport you develop a fantastic skill set that includes the ability to work well in a team of people that you have just met, a great situational awareness. You learn specific skills such as how to extricate a driver from a car and of course you get experience of trauma.

How I got involved in motorsports

Whilst at medical school I did an intercalated degree in Sports and Exercise medicine. It was here that I found my love for prehospital medicine. I was invited to a race meeting and it is here the love story began. From the moment that you drive into the circuit you can feel the buzz in the air. The atmosphere around a racetrack is phenomenal.

A typical race weekend

The day starts with a team brief that is attended by the medical and rescue teams.

A few keys things are discussed:

  • The type of racing that is happening as this has implications for the kind of injuries that may occur and the type of extrication that is needed.
  • Each team member is allocated to a position on track.
  • Medical bags and drugs are checked, radios are collected.

The medical set up will vary across tracks and for different types of racing. Most often there will be a medical centre that is staffed with a medical team, if it is a big event there may be a helicopter and pilot stationed at medical centre.

The chief medical officer that has overall responsibility. They are the main link between the medical team and race officials.

Normally someone has baked so you grab a slice of cake and a cup of tea and head to post – this may be trackside/medical car/rescue unit.

There is a break for lunch, and everyone will reconvene at medical centre. There is always time to get an ice cream and have a wander around the garages, look at the cars.

Most racetracks will have an agreed noise curfew, so chequered flag for the last race of the day has to be before 6:30pm.

Types of incidents

You can deal with a wide range of incident from cars on fire, cars upside down, cars in places they shouldn’t be.

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Race car on fire

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Overturned race car

How you can get involved
  • Motorsport doctors can come from a variety of specialties but tend to be Emergency Physicians, Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeons and Anaesthetists.
  • If you are interested, contact the chief medical officer of your local racetrack and attend a race meeting as an observer 
  • You’ll need to have completed your Advanced Trauma Life Support course.
  • Join Motor Sports UK
  • For more information contact me @Tlcampbell1
Diversity in motorsport

Historically there hasn’t been much diversity in motorsports. However, things are changing, for example Girls on Track is global imitative to increase participation of females in motorsports through race track events and online community. Find them @girlsontrackuk

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Some of the medical team watching truck racing

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Tricia with medical race car

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Tricia just before performing trial extration of a driver