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Road Show: The Art of Motorcycle Racer Maintenance

Motorcycle racing is one of the fastest sports on earth — and one of the most physically brutal. Racers straddle technologically advanced bikes that pack 250-horsepower engines and gun from zero to 200 miles per hour in less than 15 seconds. It makes for a thrilling blur of heart-pounding speed and ear-splitting noise on the track, but if something goes wrong, it can be disastrous.

“Accidents are very frequent, ” says Dr. Michele Zasa, medical director and owner at the Clinica Mobile in Parma, Italy, a traveling healthcare clinic that has been providing medical care to riders for more than 40 years. Even when they don’t crash, riders’ bodies can get beaten up just from sitting on the bikes. “As you can imagine, small fractures often occur when riding at 300 kilometers per hour [186 mph] on two wheels.”

Clinica Mobile’s two mobile healthcare units — minihospitals on the backs of trucks — follow riders through 16 countries across four continents. Its largest unit is a 150-square-meter, two-story full outpatient facility.

Above: Clinica Mobile’s two mobile healthcare units — minihospitals on the backs of trucks — follow riders through 16 countries across four continents. Image credit: Clinica Mobile. Top image credit: Getty Images.

Where the racers need speedy bikes, the clinicians need fast and portable technology to do their work. That’s why for the 2019 season, Clinica Mobile — the official healthcare partner of the MotoGP and Superbike World Championship — rolled out two laptop-size, lightweight ultrasound machines from GE Healthcare that can clearly and quickly scan a patient for injuries to the vascular and musculoskeletal systems and abdominal organs. “The use of the ultrasound system is essential because it supports diagnosis and treatment for the orthopedist and the physiotherapist,” Zasa says. “These ultrasound systems allow you to examine and show any lesions on-site and immediately think of a recovery plan.”

Christian Giometti is a physiotherapist at Clinica Mobile who helps drivers recover their physical strength after injuries and accidents and helps them get their bodies physically stronger for races. He says that the ultrasound machine, the NextGen LOGIQ e, allows his team “to monitor the driver with greater ease and immediacy and gives us feedback on the spot. We now have the opportunity to do a treatment and see immediately how the tissue reacts,” he says.

The system also makes it easy to compare images from different scans and monitor drivers during the stages of recovery, which could help tailor that treatment plan. For example, a driver was injured during a workout. When he complained of thigh pain, the doctors examined him with the ultrasound scanner. “We were able to detect the presence of an extensive hematoma and see [its] reduction thanks to the physiotherapy treatments,” Zasa says.

Because the drivers and their crews have access to the clinic almost every weekend, Zasa says, the Clinica Mobile is more like a home away from home than a traveling hospital. “Some of the drivers don’t even go to the family doctor,” he says. “They wait for the race weekend to discuss any problems with us.”

“The use of the ultrasound system is essential because it supports diagnosis and treatment for the orthopedist and the physiotherapist,” says Clinica Mobile’s Dr. Michele Zasa. “These ultrasound systems allow you to examine and show any lesions on-site and immediately think of a recovery plan.” Image credit: Clinica Mobile.

A version of this story originally appeared on The Pulse, a GE Healthcare blog.

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