Tag Archives: Grand Prix of Houston

Hinchcliffe Wreck Shows Risk of Injuries are Part of Everyday Life for Athletes

Every day life is full of risks if one really stops to think about it.

There is the risk of stubbing one’s toe while fumbling in the dark all the way to the risk that someone will run into the back of your car while you are stopped at a light.

For professional athletes there are the every day toe stubbing risks that the average person faces along with the risk that in some cases they might be seriously injured or even die at work due to the inherent risks associated with what they do for a living.

James Hinchcliffe (shown in Winner's Circle after the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston) recently reminded people that driving Indy Cars is risky business. Photo R. Anderson
James Hinchcliffe (shown in Winner’s Circle after the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston) recently reminded people that driving Indy Cars is risky business.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military are among the many professions who also put their life’s at risk so in no way do I want to come across as saying that athletes are the only ones with risky professions.

There are countless men and women working tirelessly at dangerous jobs every day who deserve our thanks for keeping us protected.

Usually their jobs do not have them in arenas full of screaming fans while they perform the risky work though. In that way professional athletes really are in a league of their own when it comes to performing risky behavior in front of the masses.

One of those athletes who does risky work in front of the masses, Indy Car driver James Hinchcliffe, is in the Intensive Care Unit of an Indiana hospital following a violent crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500 Monday.

Hinchcliffe, or Hinch as he is known to many of his fans, suffered a puncture to the left upper thigh after a piece of the car’s suspension assembly pierced the driver cockpit, or tub, and went through his leg causing severe soft tissue damage and rupturing arteries.

According to some published reports after his car’s right front suspension failed, Hinchcliffe hit the wall with a force of 125 Gs and was likely traveling more than 220 mph when he hit the wall. It should be noted that G forces above 100, even in short bursts, can be fatal in some cases.

Unlike in other sports the same safety team travels to all Indy Car races. It is the quick work of that team that is being credited with saving the life of James Hinchcliffe following a wreck Monday. Photo R. Anderson
Unlike in other sports the same safety team travels to all Indy Car races. It is the quick work of that team that is being credited with saving the life of James Hinchcliffe following a wreck Monday.
Photo R. Anderson

Were it not for the fast action of the safety crew it is entirely possible that Hinch could have died from his injuries due to the blood loss associated with a ruptured artery.

While Hinch is alive thanks in part to enhanced safety features and procedures to handle injuries like his, it is likely that there will be new safety features added to the Indy Cars after the cause of the latest crash are revealed.

However Indy Cars will never be 100 percent safe any more than athletes in other sports can be 100 percent protected from the risks of getting seriously injured in their chosen fields.

Recent lawsuits from former NFL players show that injuries from playing sports can sometimes take years to manifest themselves as is the case with players stating that they are suffering from the effects of head trauma long after their playing careers have ended.

In response the NFL has new concussion protocols in place to try to lessen the risk of injury to current players from head trauma.

In baseball there has been a rash of injuries the last few years with batters and pitchers getting injured after having their heads and jaws make contact with a baseball traveling at high velocity.

Former Houston Astros pitcher J.A. Happ was lucky and evaded serious injury in 2013 when he was hit by  a ball on the mound while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ's hit and others like it have led Major League Baseball to look at ways to better protect the players. Photo R Anderson
Former Houston Astros pitcher J.A. Happ was lucky and evaded serious injury in 2013 when he was hit by a ball on the mound while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ’s hit and others like it have led Major League Baseball to look at ways to better protect the players.
Photo R Anderson

In response to the increase in head injuries Major League Baseball is developing new protective head gear that can be worn by both batters and pitchers to help lessen the impact of a ball to the head.

The actions by the NFL and MLB to protect their players is certainly to be commended but no system can totally prevent injury when it comes to sports.

This is not to say that all motorsports and contact sports such as football should be deemed unsafe and banned any more than I should have to bubble wrap my home to avoid injury from bumping into things in the dark.

The trick is to make things as safe as humanly possible for the athletes involved so that they can live to play, or in Hinchcliffe’s case, drive, another day.

Sports are much safer today than they were 10 years ago and 10 years from now they will be even safer. Innovations will continue to evolve in the world of sports as well as other fields.

As long as people learn and improve from each accident and injury than they serve a purpose in helping the industry as a whole become safer. Failure to learn from the issues would be a far more devastating scenario.

In time the Mayor of Hinch Town will again be spraying the bubbly of victory after he heals from his injuries. Photo R. Anderson
In time the Mayor of Hinch Town will again be spraying the bubbly of victory after he heals from his injuries.
Photo R. Anderson

I had the opportunity to meet Hinch when I worked with the Grand Prix of Houston. While platitudes are certainly thrown around a lot, I can say that James Hinchcliffe is one of the most easy going athletes I have encountered in any sport and is one of those athletes who seems to really enjoy what they are doing and understands that it is a privilege to get to do what they do for a living.

The road back to driving an Indy Car will not be an easy one but Hinch has shown time and time again that he has an ability to handle those turns with the greatest of ease. I would not count the Mayor of Hinch Town out just yet.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to move a few things so that I do not bump into them tonight.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

 

Surprises can be Both Good and Bad

The other day I took my Jeep in for a routine oil change and alignment check.

While I try to be good about coming in every 3,000 miles or so I am occasionally tardy in my duties as a car owner and stretch things out to four or five thousand miles between oil changes.

This was one of those times where I was closer to the five thousand mark than three thousand but I figured the car was no worse for it.

Since the mechanic is within walking distance of my house I will often drop off the Jeep and walk home as opposed to sitting in the waiting room watching the History Channel, which always seems to be on when I am there.

A recent surprise flat tire got me thinking about some surprises I would actually like to see this year. Photo R. Anderson
A recent surprise flat tire got me thinking about some surprises I would actually like to see this year.
Photo R. Anderson

Don’t get me wrong, I love the History Channel but I figure there are so many more things that I can do in the comfort of my own home as opposed to spending time in the waiting room.

So as I was sitting at home on my couch watching the History Channel, the mechanic called to tell me that they would not be able to fix my flat tire since the bolt had gone through the side wall.

This news surprised me in many ways.

First, I had not been aware that I had a flat tire and secondly how exactly does a bolt manage to enter a tire at a 90 degree angle?

I mentioned to the mechanic that I was not aware of a flat tire and perhaps he had mixed up my chart with someone else’s. He assured me that one of my tires was punctured and it was time to look at the options.

After it was determined that the tire could not be repaired and would need to be replaced, I realized that my $20 oil change was going to be far more expensive than originally planned.

My first reaction at having to purchase an unplanned tire was of course one of anger since I never seem to get the full manufacturer’s suggested amount of miles out of a set of tires.

In fact the tire that was mortally wounded by the bolt only had around 6,000 miles on it which made it a tire teenager cut down in its prime.

While the surprise aspect of the additional tire purchase was certainly not what I had planned on, I was definitely happy to have the surprise of a punctured tire happen while I was sitting on my couch as opposed to driving down the highway and experiencing a blowout or other tire issue that would have caused more damage to the Jeep and/or me.

So, all in all learning about a flat tire in air conditioned comfort on a couch with someone else doing the repair was certainly a welcome surprise albeit an expensive one.

The surprise World Serie pairing that I want to see in October is the Tampa Bay Rays against the Washington Nationals. Photo R. Anderson
The surprise World Serie pairing that I want to see in October is the Tampa Bay Rays against the Washington Nationals.
Photo R. Anderson

The surprise flat got me thinking about other potential surprises that could arise with the pending starts of the Major League Baseball, NASCAR and Indy Racing League seasons over the next couple of weeks.

Of course if one knew what was going to happen in each of those areas ahead of time they would not be surprises but for the sake of argument here is one potential surprise and one dark horse surprise that I would love to see in each of those sports this season.

First up let’s look at the surprises for Major League Baseball.

With the Major League Baseball season just around the corner the biggest surprise I would like to see is the Tampa Bay Rays making a return trip to the World Series against the Washington Nationals.

While the Rays and Nationals are both loaded with talent this year they each face huge obstacles in their quest for October glory. The Rays have a slightly better chance at postseason play despite playing in the toughest division in baseball.

Were the Houston Astros to somehow win the American League West title this season it would likely be the surprise of the year if not the century. Photo R. Anderson
Were the Houston Astros to somehow win the American League West title this season it would likely be the surprise of the year if not the century.
Photo R. Anderson

But for the record the Major League Baseball surprise I most want to see this year is a Rays against Nationals World Series.

Of course my dark horse surprise, that has almost no chance in the world of happening, would be for the Houston Astros to win the American League West.

That surprise is probably at least a decade away from happening but anything can happen I suppose.

With the Major League Baseball surprises written down my sights soon turned to NASCAR.

The Daytona 500 kicks off the 36-race NASCAR season this weekend (more on that in Friday’s column).

As in the past few seasons the powers that be added some tweaks to the points and other rules that teams will need to quickly get up to speed on.

Danica Patrick would surprise many people including Richard Petty were she to win a NASCAR race this season. Photo R. Anderson
Danica Patrick would surprise many people including Richard Petty were she to win a NASCAR race this season.
Photo R. Anderson

Perhaps no other sport enjoys messing with the rules each year as much as NASCAR does so they are certainly consistent with their constant changes.

My NASCAR related surprise that I would like to see involves the driver of the #10 car Danica Patrick.

After becoming the first woman to win an IRL race, Danica became the first woman to start on the pole and lead laps in the Daytona 500 last year during her first full year in NASCAR’s highest level.

My Danica related surprise would be for her to silence her critics in the Petty family and elsewhere by winning a race this year.

There are 36 opportunities for her to accomplish that and I feel that she very well could make history once again and make The King Richard Petty eat that feather on his hat.

In a perfect world Jimmy Johnson would let someone else win the championship this season. Photo R. Anderson
In a perfect world Jimmy Johnson would let someone else win the championship this season.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the NASCAR related dark horse surprise I would most like to see, that would be for someone other than Jimmy Johnson to hoist the Champion’s trophy at the end of the year.

I mean come on Jimmy you have six of them already it is time to share with the rest of the class and take some time off before getting that record tying seventh championship that no amount of rules changes can prevent you from eventually winning.

Lastly let us look at the big surprises I am predicting for the IRL this year.

With the series returning once again to Houston for a two-race weekend in June I would like to have the surprise of seeing both races run without any career ending injuries such as the one that Dario Franchitti suffered last year.

Dario Franchitti's racing career ended on a racetrack constructed in a stadium parking lot. Hopefully no other drivers face the same fate when the Indy Racing Series returns to Houston this June. Photo R. Anderson
Dario Franchitti’s racing career ended on a racetrack constructed in a stadium parking lot. Hopefully no other drivers face the same fate when the Indy Racing Series returns to Houston this June.
Photo R. Anderson

Hopefully with more time to plan race organizers can make sure that the track will be in better shape so the drivers can race each other and not worry about whether the track is going to cause them to lose control or take them out of the championship picture, or end their careers.

As for my dark horse surprise I want to see this year in the Indy Series, that would be for Juan Pablo Montoya to win the IRL Championship for Roger Penske after coming over from a few years spent in NASCAR driving for Penske’s bitter rival Chip Ganassi.

So there you have it several surprises to look out for over the next six months or so in MLB, NASCAR and IRL competition.

Of course if any of those surprises do end up happening you can always say that you read about them here first.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some surprises to get ready for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson