I like to think that I am not totally unfit. I attribute much of that to spending most of my younger years cycling everywhere and swimming a lot. I think it gave me a good base to work from.

I'm getting older and bits of me creak now. What is more noticeable is the longer recovery time. I've become more aware of my physical limitations and how they can impact on how I choose to spend my life. I figure that if I am going to be able to continue doing the things that I enjoy and particularly keep chugging away in motorsport medicine, I should at least try and maintain the fitness required to perform well. It also helps that I have few friends that I work with who have bought into the lycra look and post their performance-bragging on various social media and app formats.

Athletes constantly strive to go one better than the last time. Go a bit faster. Finish a place higher. And it's easy to watch a video blog of Nico Rosberg training or Mark Webber promoting his endurance event, The Mark Webber Challenge, and think “Yeah, those guys get paid to do all of that training. It's part of their job. I don't have that kind of time.” But that's missing the point.

I'm a mountain biker. I've been at it since my teens and I still love it. I started with a friend just as it was emerging as an entity in its own right. John rode a Rudy Project and my first few rides were on a Raleigh road bike (drop handle bars, slick skinny tyres, not terribly well suited to off-road trails) and we'd head up into the Dublin mountains and ride forest trails and single tracks, keeping an eye out for rangers as the trails were sanctified hiker territory in those days.

I moved up to a fully rigid GT Tequesta for the next few years until I finally made the splash to a front suspension Avanti Barracuda. I now ride a dual suspension, Stevens Carbon ES cross country bike, which I really enjoy.

However, I figured that as my recovery from particularly punishing rides gets longer, some stamina training might be useful and so I started looking back to road riding and I've ended up getting a fully rigid cyclocross bike - so almost full circle to where I started with my Raleigh. And while out riding yesterday, I made a few connections across various bits of life. Cycling is a bit like that.

Riding the dual suspension cross country bike is very forgiving. I still have to lean into corners, grind up ascents and bounce over rocks and fallen trees, but the bike soaks up a lot of the punishment and is probably capable of a lot more than I am. The cyclocross bike has been (and continues to be) a new learning curve. The different riding geometry, hand positions, lack of suspension and potential for toe-overlap with the larger diameter wheels (I still ride old school 26 inch wheels on my mountain bikes) has meant paying much more attention to the track I am heading down. I find I have to pick my lines more carefully and earlier. I have to be more conscious of my riding technique and keep my grip and joints looser. I feel a lot more vulnerable. But it is also quite satisfying.

It's a bit like learning a new skill or changing where you work or your career path. Having gotten to a stage of being able to float along the track without thinking too hard about it, almost lazily, you now need to sit up and work at it again. Which is a good thing.

At work, it would be relatively easy to fall into a pattern, scrape the minimum CPD points together each year, stay out of trouble and glide through to retirement. But that is self-serving and probably means I would not be giving the best care available to the patients in my care. Which is why I got involved in the FOAMed movement (To save a tangent, if you don't recognise this term, go here: FOAM - Life In The Fast Lane) as a way of keeping up with critical care evolution and tapping in to ways of learning new concepts and skills. It's also part of the driving ethos behind the Rollcage Medic site.

Motorsport medicine and rescue is no different. Again, it is easy to fall into a pattern of simply doing what was done before. Yet we should be firmly aware from our day jobs that this is limited thinking. The athletes don't stand still on tradition. Neither do the engineers. And at the elite end of the sport, the support they all get is evolving too. A friend of mine, Dr Luke Bennett, who works with the Hintsa Performance group, providing health and performance support to Formula 1 drivers and crews talks about the advances in how that care is developed and delivered.

Motorsport medicine and rescue is no different. Awareness and practice around concussion is evolving. Point of care ultrasound for diagnosis and therapeutic management has come on in leaps and bounds. Developments in race car power formats and safety structures continue and can often present a significant barrier to the medical response team arriving on scene. Dipping in to other industries to find useful practices to apply to our own is more commonplace. And these are just a few examples.

There are plenty of resources to fuel learning in our day jobs, a lot of which is transferable to motorsport, whether it is a clinical skill or a rescue practice. There are a lot less motorsport specific resources however. Local motorsport rescue groups and regulatory bodies (ASNs) have variable quality material with variable levels of accessibility. Peak bodies such as the FIA and the ICMS are realizing the value of making material available and improving their websites, printed publications and conferences. We still don't have a strong inclination to publish what we do and though there are some good projects out there, they will be of little value if no one is able to read or listen to the details in order to decide whether to adopt them into their practice. Following on from that, we also need to be better at applying the same critical appraisal that we do at work to what we do trackside. 

We need more collaboration. We need to cross train. We need to set up projects, training workshops and conferences even if they are relatively low key, to facilitate evolution and constructive networking.

So, if you have been free-wheeling along for a bit, maybe it's time to get off your dual suspension cross country bike and ride something else for a bit, even if it is still on the same trails. Get out of your comfort zone. You will feel a little vulnerable. It might even hurt a bit. But it may also lead to a new sense of satisfaction and reinvigorate why you do what you do. And while you don't need to necessarily aim for an elite level, it may help you to get a bit better at what you already do.

Here are some resources to get going with, but feel free to contribute your own list or start your own resource and I will add it on below. Caveat emptor applies to all of the sites listed here:

  • FIA AUTO+Medical - A mixture of interest,opinion and research. (CoI – I'm on the editorial board)
  • FIA website - You will find regulations for FIA sanctioned events on licencing standards (Appendix L), medical services at FIA events (Appendix H) and anti-doping (Appendix A) down at the bottom of this page.
  • The Global Institute for Motorsport Safety - The FIA Institute was closed down at the end of 2016 and reconfigured as the Global Institute. As a new entity, there is only a small amount of material currently on the site.
  • ICMS website - Their annual ICMS congress in early December is open to anyone practicing medicine or rescue at motorsport events. Their website is currently undergoing some development to bring it up to date, though most of the content is behind a membership log in (US$100-300 depending upon your category).
  • CAMS website - Recently launched their Medical page to collate all the relevant topics to one area. In addition to the medical licence standards, medical services at motorsport events and various forms, it is also planned to publish topics of interest on a regular basis. (CoI - I am on the CAMS National Medical Advisory Committee)
  • MSA UK website - The annual yearbook ("Blue" book) contains the regulations for emergency and medical services. The have a policies and guidelines section. Their blog is empty.
  • The Motorsport Safety Foundation - There is a Research and Education page but I don't know much about the people behind this site
  • Rollcage Medic – Well, you are already here, so that's not hard
  • Emergency Services Rally School - A course based in New Hampshire (USA) for rally, rallycross and hillclimb intervention responders.
Motorsport research does turn up occasionally in mainstream peer-reviewed journals, but you've got to be looking for it or hear about it to catch it.

Declaration: I receive no financial or career incentives from any agency, organisation or product mentioned in this post.