Concussion testing in Formula 1

Formula 1 is in the process of introducing a new system by which to test drivers for concussion after a big accident. The Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) has been developed at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center by Mark Lovell and Dr. Joseph Maroon. The test, which takes around 20 minutes measures memory, reaction time, mental speed, information-processing, anticipation time and other functions of the brain which are affected by concussions. The test is initially tried on the drivers when they are healthy and this acts as baseline for them later on after they have had an accident. This will be used in addition to clinical examination and provides a more objective and scientific way of measuring if a driver is fit to race. In the past all the doctors could do was ask if the subjects were suffering from dizzy spells or headaches, and in normal circumstances most drivers would say no, simply because they want to race. However doctors have long been aware of the damage that can be done if a drivers suffering from concussion suffers a second head injury.

The process - a computer program - was developed in the National Football League in the United States in the 1980s. It has been widely tested and is used in various sports including CART and IRL. It is being studied by NASCAR, and Formula 1 will adopt it as soon as the baseline tests have been done on all the drivers. This will take a couple of months.

The program will also help racing doctors create a database about concussion, which has been a big problem in racing for some years, particularly in the United States where oval racing cars tend to have heavy impacts with concrete walls.

"We had no good way of really looking at it and judging who had too many concussions and who was in trouble because of it," said CART doctor Steve Olvey.

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