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Lewis Hamilton and George Russell face long-term back damage due to porpoising concerns

Daily Express logo Daily Express 15/08/2022 Luke Chillingsworth
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and could face long-term back damage if their porpoising issues continue in a major concern for Mercedes. The Silver Arrows have been one of the worst affected by the bouncing with Hamilton in severe pain at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix earlier this season.

Gemma Fisher, a Human Performance consultant Osteopath working in F1, claims drivers could suffer disc damage if oscillations continue. Drivers also risk short-term damage including muscle inflammation, nerve damage and rib pains.

Speaking to Express Sport, Fisher said: "The short term is the mild levels of discomfort, you can get what's called facet irritation, facets are the little joints within the spine... but the jarring of those, they are pain sensitive structures.

"They can become painful, they can refer and radiate pain out. Then if you've got some low-grade level of inflammation that's happening around that joint surface... when you have a lot of it accumulatively in an area relative to normal it's actually a chemical irritant to nerves. So inflammation can then start to give you referred pain and referred symptoms that start to affect the nerves that go further out to the extremities.

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lewis hamilton george russell mercedes © Getty lewis hamilton george russell mercedes

"One of the other aspects from the up and down loading of the oscillations can lead to things like cervicogenic headaches, which means headaches that derive from the neck and spine." Fisher also warns drivers can get a "stabbing pain" due to rib damage which can be very painful.

Over a period of time, she also suggests drivers could suffer severe back damage due to "micro trauma" on the discs. She explained: "The longer-term implications of what we are conscious of as medical professional with this porpoising is the impact it is having on the discs.

"The discs are the shock-absorbing structures within the spine. They are meant to shock absorb. That is what they are designed to do. But the problem this is potentially causing is exacerbated by the fact the spine is in a flexed position... we are meant to be upright and running and walking around. We are not designed to be sat in computer chairs, never mind a Formula 1 car.

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lewis hamilton back pain f1 © Getty lewis hamilton back pain f1

"Being flexed in that position for a long period of time, that in itself loads the area... over time that in itself stretches the posterior fibres, the ligaments down the spine and the fibres at the back of the disc. The concern is not just the intensity but the frequency of the oscillations.

"The up and down forces actually are then putting increased pressure at the back portion of the discs which then start to put pressure on where the nerves exit the spine and again cause that inflammation. That over time is the concern, it's the cumulative effect of that." Fisher explains that if drivers' bodies are then unable to fully recover between races due to the packed schedule.

Mercedes has claimed its proposing issues are now "solved" but boss Toto Wolff has still welcomed new F1 rules to address the issues. The FIA will introduce an oscillation check for the Belgian Grand Prix and has admitted further changes to ride heights will come into place for next season.

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