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GP Week : Issue 149
Aside from the obvious, there is ne type of injury every racer dreads. Actually several types, some self-generating in that you don’t even have to fall off. But they all involve the same part of the body. The right fore-arm and wrist. There was painful evidence of this at Qatar, from the defending champion. Casey Stoner was leading the race, had broken away by two seconds. Then the tightness in his right arm became unbearable. Squeezing the brake lever was agonising; operating the throttle accurately increasingly difficult. He got swallowed up. “I felt like a backmarker,” he said ruefully. It was a case of racers’ wrist. It might possibly be what decides the outcome of the 2012 World Championship. It would not be the first time. The list of names of victims is long and distinguished, and goes back to the 1970s. By no coincidence: that was when slick tyres arrived, offering previously undreamt of levels of grip. This was before repetitive strain injuries were even widely understood. As the tyres magnified the strain, the payoff was a considerable increase in this particular RSI. Kenny Roberts Senior was badly troubled by arm pump at the end of his career; his nemesis Freddie Spencer ’s clear dominance curtailed by a bad case of tendonitis. The words “compartment syndrome” entered bike racing’s vocabulary, as more and more cases emerged. And so many since then that a wrist bearing the scars of surgical intervention are virtually a badge of office for senior MotoGP riders. For it can be cured by surgery, or at least partially alleviated: tissue is carved away to ease the path of the tendons through the carpal tunnel, or to prevent pump-up in the muscle group. It is that muscle group, and that right hand, that do all the most important work on a motorcycle, quite apart from steering input. They speed you up and slow you down. Operating the twist-grip is an affair of the greatest delicacy: even with electronic help accurate throttle control is what sets the greatest riders apart. Squeezing the brake must be done with the same accuracy of feel, but considerably more force: riders exert eight kilogrammes at the end of the Losail circuit’s kilometre-long straight. This is according to figures from Brembo, the MotoGP brake of choice. This big squeeze slows you from anything up to 340 km/h to 105, in 265 metres, over a time of 5.1 seconds. During this spell (count it out) the rider is operating both throttle and brake, while at the same time taking most of his weight on his wrists. Weight that is increased by 40 percent: Brembo record 1.4G. This may be conservative: I’ve seen evidence of flash readings of 2.5G or more. Over 22 laps, it asks a lot of a rider, and most of it is asked over his right forearm. That’s the most important part of his body. Let’s wish Casey a speedy resolution and no recurrence over the year to come. We don’t want another title battle spoiled by racers’ wrist. OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor OPINION RACER'S WRIST 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: