Lara Carlson continues pioneering new research in motorsports physiology

Lara Carlson

November 09, 2017

Carlson also collected data on a professional NASCAR driver competing at the Bristol Motor Speedway
Carlson also collected data on a professional NASCAR driver competing at the Bristol Motor Speedway

Lara Carlson, D.P.E., FACSM, CSCS, associate professor in the University of New England Department of Physical Therapy and the Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences, continued her research in motorsports physiology with a new publication examining hydration and heat stress in local and professional NASCAR drivers.

The goals of sports science research are to improve the performance and safety in all competitive athletes in order to minimize stress on the body during competition, but unfortunately less is known regarding the stress motorsports drivers face during competitive racing. It has been suggested that motorsport competition may increase heat stress and challenge the cardiovascular system. These effects may add to driver fatigue and possibly lead to catastrophic injury. Until now, the hydration status of actual stock car race competitors has never been carefully quantified.

Similar to published research on military personnel (aviation pilots, soldiers in armored vehicles, etc.), Carlson’s study, “Hydration Status and Thermoregulatory Responses In Drivers During Competitive Racing,” confirmed that completing physical tasks in elevated cabin temperatures (racecar cockpit) with the addition of protective uniforms, which hinder evaporative cooling, results in increased heat storage and may impair muscle activation, mental alertness, and increase the risk of heat illness.

Carlson’s findings suggested that drivers endure increased thermal stress (elevated skin and core body temperatures), increased cardiovascular strain and fluid losses during competitive stock car racing in hot conditions. Additionally, Carlson also collected data on a professional NASCAR driver competing at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee, to compare to the drivers from her study at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Maine. The results of this investigation provided support that fluid losses during competitive racing can be significant. Without a fluid replacement strategy, fluid losses may exceed 3 percent of body mass and could negatively impact driving performance in longer races.

Co-authors on the study include UNE’s Michael Lawrence, M.S., Motion Analysis Laboratory manager in the Department of Physical Therapy,and Robert Kenefick, Ph.D., FACSM, United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

Read the study.

To learn more about the University of New England’s Westbrook College of Health Professions visit www.une.edu/wchp

To learn more about the University of New England’s Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences, visit www.une.edu/research/cen

To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions

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