Almost two thirds of the 22 drivers and former drivers tested at last year's French Grand Prix were found to have symptoms of RSI, which can result in permanent disability.
The drivers were examined by doctors from the Hopital Bichat Hand Surgery Service in Paris who found 14 of the 22 reported pain or tenderness and numbness in the fingers at the end of a race. In the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr Emmanuel Masmejean and colleagues say that although the disorder is not unexpected in a sport that involves long hours spent gripping a vibrating steering wheel while operating controls with the fingers, its frequency is worrying.
The introduction of semi-automatic gears in 1991, operated with the middle finger of the right hand, may have aggravated the problem. The incidence of wrist and hand problems amongst sportsmen and women in the general population is estimated to be 25 per cent compared with the 63 per cent found among the drivers.
The French researchers suggest that the Formula One drivers should wear wrist pads to cushion their hands against the steering wheel, without losing sensitivity, to minimise the long-term damage caused by the vibration.Reuse content