Is your car seat position Formula 1 worthy?

As Silverstone hots up for the British Grand Prix this weekend, it is easy for supporters to get swept up into the ‘edge of your seat’ racing of the event.  The drivers often make navigating the race car round the twists and turns of the track at high speeds seem effortless.  It is easy to forget that Formula One drivers need to be incredibly physically fit in order to perform well. They follow highly intensive training plans to strengthen their core muscles, neck and shoulders, so they can be strong and responsive when handling the car.

racing carIn line with this, a lot of research has gone into the ergonomic design of the car seats. In Formula One cars, the steering wheel column is specifically designed to be closer to the driver and higher, allowing them to take full advantage of their powerful arm and shoulder muscles to control the steering wheel; a good job they’ve spent all season training them for this purpose! There has been much research conducted on the ergonomics of car seat design, and this is equally important for everyone who uses a car, be this from elite racing drivers to the Lewis Hamilton wannabees, to the sales rep with back pain who drives 1000 miles a month with work. How many of us can say we know the principles of good setup of car seat position, or make sure that it’s still in the right position after our partner borrowed the car to make a trip to the shops.

As with anything concerning ergonomics, the emphasis is on organising your environment in order to work for you, to limit any unnecessary movements that could lead to stresses and strains on your body. As a general rule of thumb, your seat should be far enough back that you can fully depress the pedals without your back coming away from the seat. The back rest should be inclined to 90 degrees or just beyond, so you can sit upright supported, resisting temptation to slump forward. In this position, with your shoulders relaxed and shoulder blades gently pressing in to the chair, your hands should naturally rest onto the steering wheel with your elbows sitting underneath. Your head should be stacked on top of your shoulders, not leaning forward, which will cause the posterior neck muscles to overwork and place the spinal joints in a disadvantageous position. The head rest should be at a height so that its highest point is level with the lowest point of your ears.

Different models of cars have different levels of adjustability of their seats, driving positionsall will move backwards and forwards, have an adjustable back rest angle and head rest which moves up and down. You may also have adjustable height, tilt function, and lumbar pump. The most important thing is that you know what all these knobs and buttons do, and how to use them to put your seat in an appropriate position. Bear in mind, that if you’re used to sitting in one position, the fact that it feels comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean its in the best position for your dimensions. At the end of the day, if you’re in any doubt, ask.

At Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic, we see a lot of patients with musculoskeletal injuries often caused or aggravated by their car seat position.  Our highly experienced therapists not only treat the symptoms, but address the root cause of an injury.  We often advise our patients on the importance of correct driving positions and where it is deemed necessary for the long term recovery of the patient, our therapists will assess the seating position of the patient in their own car, and advise on recommended adjustments to the set-up, which could help to prevent further aggravation or recurrence of the injury.

Therapists at the clinic also conduct work station assessments for those who spend significant amounts of time in vehicles.  From refuse collection workers to crane operators, to car, bus, train and van drivers.  During which, therapists provide advice, support and recommendations to help drivers reduce their risk of developing musculoskeletal injuries, as well as offering treatment plans for those who already have musculoskeletal complaints.

If you would like to know more, visit our contact us page or call us now on 0191 2330500 to speak to one of our experienced therapists.