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Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte
Print version ISSN 1517-8692
RODRIGUES, Luiz Oswaldo Carneiro and MAGALHAES, Flávio de Castro. Car racing: in the heat of competition. Rev Bras Med Esporte [online]. 2004, vol.10, n.3, pp. 212-215. ISSN 1517-8692. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1517-86922004000300011.
The present study discusses the role of heat as an additional risk factor for the accident that killed the pilot Ayrton Senna. The competition car racing is a biological challenge, a stressing situation from the physical and mental point of view. The maintenance of performance depends on the oxygen and carbohydrates availability, adequate hydration and constant internal temperature, between 37 and 38ºC. The dissipation of heat produced by the metabolism occurs through the increase on the cutaneous blood flow and sweat and maintaining brain temperature constant becomes a permanent problem. It was experimentally verified that the energy required to the racecar driving is comparable to a sport such as volleyball. During a car race, the individual is exposed to a hot microenvironment in the cockpit, sometimes reaching 50ºC, generated by mechanical and environmental sources of heat. The obstruction of the sweat evaporation by the racesuit results in humidity and personal discomfort, what leads to higher mental effort to drive the car. The anti-heat measures are adopted before the race, considering the nutritional state, hydration and specially the physical conditioning through adequate and regular aerobic exercises that enable increasing the work capacity and the heat tolerance, resulting in lower fatigue during the car racing. Another important procedure should be the previous acclimation of pilots to hot and humid environments. All efforts should be done to reduce the vehicle heating and to respect the warning flag system for the risks of hyperthermia. Finally, although Ayrton Senna was an individual with higher risk of developing hyperthermia, regardless other causes, it seems not to have elapsed sufficient time of race in order to produce metabolic heat capable to increase excessively the pilot's internal temperature in the environmental conditions of the autodrome in the day of his death.
Keywords : Car racing; Thermoregulation; Hyperthermia; Insolation; Death by heat.