With Angela Shirk, ATC, LAT, CWcHP
Twelve seconds is all it takes.
In 12 seconds, some pit crews can change four tires, lug nuts, fill a race car with fuel and send it on its way. The human performance element of NASCAR is as crucial as the driver and the car, and physical conditioning takes the driver’s seat when it comes to the mere seconds that can make or break a race.
Twelve seconds, or even less, is also all it takes for an injury to happen. With the adrenaline, pace and physical nature of the job, crews going ‘over the wall’ during a pit stop can sustain an acute injury in moments. Sometimes chronic issues may be the problem, nagging and impeding performance.
Angela Shirk, Certified Athletic Trainer for Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports, is one of the few female trainers in NASCAR and travels with her teams to every race. Her job revolves around the health of the pit crew members for all three NASCAR series; assessing and treating all types of musculoskeletal injuries, wound care and general medical needs. For more serious injuries she works hand-in-hand with other OrthoCarolina Motorsports and the infield care center team.
With a nearly 12-year in motorsports medicine, she’s seen a lot, but Angela says these are the most common injuries she sees in NASCAR:
- Low Back Strains – tiny tears or damage in the muscles or ligaments of the low back
- Sacroiliac (SI) Dysfunction – pain around the sacrum, just below the lumbar spine
- Tendinitis – inflammation of the tendons, especially elbows, knees, wrist and shoulder
- Plantar Fasciitis – pain and inflammation of the plantar fasciitis, a thick band of tissue running from the calf to the foot
- Knee Injuries – pain or injury that affects the flexing (bending) or extending (straightening) of the knee
- Shoulder Injuries – pain or injury to the clavicle (collarbone), scapula (shoulder blade) or humerus (upper arm bone)
- Ankle/Foot Injuries – soft tissue or other injuries that affect the mobility of the feet and ankles
- Hand Injuries – fractures, cuts, lacerations, dislocations or other injuries to the hand including carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow
- Bone Bruise – a traumatic injury that results from forceful impact or a direct hit
- Cervical Strain – a musculoskeletal issue often characterized by neck pain or dysfunction
- Muscular tightness/weakness – upper motor neuron degeneration and spasticity (tightness) or lower motor neuron degeneration (weakness)
- Rib Head – rib pain caused by the misalignment or subluxation of joints
- Concussions – a brain injury that is caused by a sudden blow to the head or to the body that shakes the brain within the skull.
- Illitobial Band – tightness or pain associated with the illitobial band, a ligament that runs down the thigh from hip to knee
For pit crews who train relentlessly to be the best, and as the competition only grows in intensity, health and minimization of injuries is part of the fuel to the finish line.
In her current role with OrthoCarolina, Certified Athletic Trainer Angela Shirk works exclusively with motorsports teams and treats Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Wood Brothers and Front Row Motorsports. OrthoCarolina Motorsports provides ongoing care for motorsports teams affiliated with OrthoCarolina during the long NASCAR season. Whether at the track in the pits or at an OrthoCarolina office, the job of the Motorsports team is to help keep drivers and teams healthy and aid in injury recovery.