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Heart Rate and Core Temperature Responses of Elite Pit Crews during Automobile Races

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Abstract

Ferguson, DP, Bowen, RS, and Lightfoot, JT. Heart rate and core-temperature responses of elite pit crews during automobile races. J Strength Cond Res 25(8): 2075-2083, 2011—There is limited information regarding the physiological and psychological demands of the racing environment, and the subsequent effect on the performance of pit crew athletes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate heart rates (HRs) and core body temperatures (CTs) of pit crew athletes in the race environment. The HR and CT of pit crew athletes (n = 7) and control subjects were measured during 6 National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing Sprint Cup races using ingestible sensors (HQ Inc, Palmetto, FL, USA). The HR and CT were measured before each race, at 15-minute intervals during the race, and upon completion of each pit stop. Compared to the control subject at each race, the pit crew athletes had significantly (p = 0.014) lower core temperatures (CTs). The pit crew athletes displayed higher HRs on the asphalt tracks than on concrete tracks (p = 0.011), and HR responses of the crew members were significantly (p = 0.012) different between pit crew positions, with the tire changers and jackman exhibiting higher HRs than the tire carriers. Unexpectedly, the CTs of the pit crew athletes were not elevated in the race environment, despite high ambient temperatures and the extensive fire-protection equipment (e.g., helmet, suit, gloves) each pit crew athlete wore. The lack of CT change is possibly the result of the increased HR more efficiently shunting blood to the skin and dissipating heat as a consequence of the athletes' extensive training regimen and ensuing heat acclimation. Additionally, it is possible that psychological stress unique to several of the tracks provided an additive effect resulting in increased heart rates.

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