SEBRING — The crowds go wild when racecars are launched like jets down the world famous Sebring International Raceway. Whether it’s WEC or IMSA cars, wrecks at speeds nearing 200 mph can be tragic.
SIR and AdventHealth take driver and fan safety seriously at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Physicians like Dr. Cary Pigman and others are specially trained to handle anything from sunburns to driver extractions. Pigman is the medical director track side and will be traveling in the 99 car, a Porsche Cayenne. The doctors who travel in the 99 car are known as “99 docs.”
Pigman has been working at the races since 1999, ironically, and has been the medical director for about four years. There are two buildings where AdventHealth staff are working out of. The Midway Care Center, which is located with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, is one. The other is the Infield Care Center in Pit Out.
The Midway Care Center will be seeing fans with minor injuries such as dehydration, “bumps and bruises.”
“We have two missions, if you will. The first is, among the spectators, mild injuries, it’s bumps, bruises, cuts and a little dehydration. That’s what the Midway Care Center will see,” Pigman explained. “ And really, from a healthcare perspective, it’s that very minor stuff. If it’s anything more than that, coordinating with EMS to get them transferred to someplace where they can get more definitive care.”
Pigman said everyone should plan ahead for the event and stay hydrated and keep cool.
The danger level increases for the drivers and workers on the track and therefore the injury level can be more severe.
“The second mission is to provide emergency care for drivers, crew and track staff. And in that circumstance, usually what we see are on the part of the crew, and the staff, some dehydration, some burns, because a lot of things on these vehicles are hot. I mean, minor burns, burns on the hands and arms and trips, falls, and all those kind of usual things that happen when you’re working in a hot environment and things are pretty tense. And then of course, with the drivers is almost entirely a track event or collision impact-related care.”
This year, both WEC and IMSA will have hybrid cars. Pigman said the hybrid cars require special training for driver extraction and additional training.
“We’re very sensitive that in certain circumstances those cars can become charged or their chassis can be powered,” he said. “If you were to inadvertently touch and ground yourself, you could be involved in the current and suffer an electrical injury. It’s all about knowing when the vehicle is safe, when it’s not safe; what you’re supposed to do if it’s not safe, and how do we get an injured driver or crew member, for instance, away from or out of the vehicle safely so that we don’t injure a rescuer. That’s been the focus of training last year, and it’s increased focus this year, because we have more cars in that category.”
While COVID-19 may not be on the forefront of everyone’s mind anymore, the virus is still around. Pigman shared his insights and tips for COVID precautions.
“What’s happened over this last three years now, is that we developed a degree of herd immunity through vaccinations and through people clinically becoming ill,” Pigman said. “I don’t want to say that it’s become background, I don’t want to say that at all, but it’s not as novel. We’re not as vulnerable as we were three years ago. So while it may occur, what we’ve been seeing is, it’s the people who have always been at great risk who remain at great risk.”
Pigman said being around “a group of people is always hazardous” for those who are immunosuppressed because of chemotherapy or other reasons.
“If you’re a person at risk, either because you’re immunosuppressed or you have other illnesses, it’s really contingent on you to make sure your vaccinations are up to date, and perhaps continue to use barrier systems like masks to limit your risk of contracting the illness,” he said.