Of all the injuries that riders sustain in motorbike racing, there are few as likely to bring a hush to the paddock as reports of a head injury. The human brain, while an incredible computer, is also a fragile organ, and it is still always a major concern when a rider is reported to have suffered a head trauma.
Which makes last weekend’s actions regarding Danilo Petrucci all the more concerning, after the Pramac Ducati rider was allowed to continue to compete after suffering an injury that would have ruled him out of a sport like professional rugby for up to three weeks.
Petrucci was perhaps the unluckiest rider of the weekend, after he was wiped out by Pol Espargaró’s bike when the Monster Yamaha rider crashed at turn two as Petrucci exited the pits. The Italian hit the Yamaha full on, sending him head over shoulders on to the track to take the brunt of the impact of the crash on his head.
Admitting afterwards he had no memory of the crash, despite not losing consciousness, the dazed rider showed signs of a concussion, including confusion and memory loss – he admitted afterwards he was ‘scared’ to not remember the fall or the previous laps.
And while in rugby that could have side-lined him for the remainder of a game, Petrucci was allowed to continue the free practice session only minutes later.
As more research is done into the side-effects of repeated concussions following reports from contact sports like American football, it’s crazy the on-site medical team allowed the Italian to put not only his own life but those of his fellow riders at risk by allowing him back on track without proper assessment.
Far too often in MotoGP, riders are lauded as heroes for returning after injury, be it Rossi coming back from a broken leg after four weeks, or Jorge Lorenzo the day after surgery to repair a broken collarbone.
Maybe it’s time for us to start worrying more about the potential consequences of injured riders on hugely powerful motorbikes rather than urging them to return as soon as possible for our viewing pleasure.
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