INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - When the 33 drivers for the Indianapolis 500 take to the trackon Sunday, what they are wearing in their ears is of huge interestto the U.S. Army. I-Team 8 was granted exclusive access to show howone local team and the Indy Racing League could help save Americanlives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Every time an Indy car hits the wall, a driver is at risk ofa concussion. Every time they hit the wall, an entire team iswatching and tracking the G-force.
Col. Joe McKeon, U.S. Army said, “That goes to thepoint of what the helmet sees versus what the brain sees.”
Every time a roadside bomb explodes, an American soldier hashad few options except to change out the padding that cushions theblow for the next time.
John Barnes, owner of Panther Racing, said, "There are somany similarities between what we do and what the military does."
Now one of our own local racing teams, John Barnes of PantherRacing has stepped in. Every time driver Dan Wheldon and other IRLdrivers get behind the wheel he wears ear sensors.
Wheldon says, "I've been involved in impacts before thatdefinitely daze you and they have a good understanding because theyhave the impact G from the ear sensor."
In 2006, I-Team 8 traveled to Iraq. In our investigationCommand Mistake the Marines made a big admission about not puttingpadding in the helmets to cushion the blow.
We showed you how repeated concussions affected soldiers likeGreg Brooks of Indianapolis. In the Buffalo, his job was to findand destroy roadside bombs. The third blast changed his life. Hecan no longer walk normally, was dizzy and had constant headaches.
It was also four years ago we showed how IU football playershad sensors in their helmets. We questioned why the militarycouldn't begin to use that same technology to make soldiers safer.Now they are.
General Pete Charelli, the Vice Chief of the Army, spentmillions on research to put sensors in the helmets. But the IRL hasalready found that’s not the way to go. IRL put sensors inthe ears. The sensors measure the trauma to the brain. That isimportant for the thousands coming back from the war with traumaticbrain injuries.
Lt. Col. Shean Phelps is the director of the WarfighterProtection Division for the U.S. Army.
Phelps asks, "How do we do what they are doing here andtranslate that into the military?"
It was a presentation by John Barnes that brought the IRL andArmy together.
Phelps said, "I’m a physician by training and to me youneed to be assessing the actual acceleration of the head and notthe helmet.”
He agrees with what he sees the IRL already doing saying“they may have cracked the code already”.
The U.S. Army sent a team of engineers and physicians to thestart of the IRL season in March at the St. Petersburg race,including an adviser from the Pentagon. Why? Traumatic braininjuries have more than doubled in the last ten years. (Source:DOD)
Panther used one of its own to showcase the technology indriver Dan Wheldon who told us, “I know this has been talkedabout a lot."
Just as a race car driver hits the wall it is important tounderstand the G-force to know how to build the car. Moreimportantly, neurosurgeons need to understand what has happened tothe brain. Brain scans show the difference between a brain withtraumatic brain injury and a comatose patient is very little.
It is why the pentagon advisor the U.S. Army at the Floridaracetrack called the technology "outstanding" saying the U.S. Armyneeds to partner with Panther Racing.
I-Team 8 was allowed exclusive access to the militarybriefing between the U.S. Army, Panther Racing and the IRL.
John Barnes began by saying "We want to help any way we canbecause we have a lot in common” (racing and the military).
Jeff Horton, an engineer with IRL says "this was developed byDelphi Motorsports 5 years ago. The league was the first one to doit.”
Phelps with the Army says "there are some areas where we canlearn from you". The IRL explained their trigger level of beingconcerned is 50 g impact. Phelps asked IRL “how willing wouldyou be to share that data?”
Horton says “we've shared data with NASA so I think theanswer is yes, we can share some data.” The data is stored ina box so all information is time stamped to understand when and howthe impact hit the brain.
The Pentagon has a renewed focus on brain trauma. Newguidelines are troops caught near a roadside blast will be pulledout of combat for 24 hours and checked for mild traumatic braininjury even if they appear unhurt or say they are fine.
The policy change is one Wheldon understands saying“I've had accidents where they look really bad and I feelfine but I also have had accidents that don’t look bad topeople watching but I’m really hurt.”
Traumatic brain injuries are a war wound you don’t "see".IRL has been tracking the impact of every crash since 1997 when adriver hit the wall. He was released at the medical center butcollapsed on the way home.
Barnes explains about the race car, "It’s a 2000 poundmissile that travels a football field and a half per second."
team owner of the National Guard car, for Barnes this ispersonal. Soldiers are in the pits race day. Barnes travels to thepoly-trauma units around the country visiting the worst of thebrain injured troops coming home.
Barnes says “It’s incredible to meet those guysand be able to spend time with them.”
He has also attended 30 welcome home ceremonies for thetroops in the last year.
Six hundred and fifty accidents have been recorded in thelast six seasons. Using the ear sensor data from accidents at thetrack, IRL designed a new headrest that reduces the head Gs 40percent.
The Army immediately took the ear sensor technology to their ownArmy labs. We questioned how long before the Army could take whatthey say at the track and put it into the battlefield.
Col. McKeon told us “the flash to bang there, it can bethree years.”
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