With the mechanics and the team preparing the bikes so they are in tip top condition for the races, who does the same with the riders? When a rider falls and suffers an injury, who is there to help them get better quickly and most efficiently? In the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team, that role is taken by Dr. Vincenzo Tota.
Since graduating from the University of Siena in 1990 with a degree in Medicine and Surgery, Vincenzo has furthered his training even more and is qualified in Sport Medicine Traumatology, Space Medicine Operations and a Masters in Sports Psychology, so he can pretty much treat anyone or anything! His experience after managing the medical care of numerous race teams (including Formula One drivers, off-road and sports car racing teams) means that he completely understands the physical and mental pressures on riders in the Superbike World Championship.
He also used to race himself and won the prestigious Camel Trophy Madagascar and the European Offshore Championship in 1999, as well as three World Endurance Offshore Championships in 2000-2002 as the World-European-Italian Champion.
This knowledge, experience and fluency in a number of languages makes him the perfect team doctor for the German/Italian/English/Welsh squad – and he doesn’t just care for the riders…
“For many years I take care of everything concerning the medical needs and the health of the whole team, including the riders and anyone related to the team, for sure I try to keep them all in good shape. I take care of the performance of the riders and aim to enhance it. We study it throughout the whole year and work with them on any small weaknesses they may have or on anything that can be made better.”
Vincenzo takes care of the riders at every point during their careers when they are under his care, both before, during and after the race weekend. At all stages, he remains involved to ensure their treatment is efficient and the best they can get.
“I am first at the medical centre if they have a fall and I am involved in the decisions with the rider as to what are the best steps moving forwards. I have a great network of colleagues around the world so that riders can be referred immediately and I take care of their rehab when necessary.”
The decision as to whether a rider is fit enough to race or not is a very complicated one, and involves a number of people. Therefore, it’s not a decision that Vincenzo takes lightly.
“It’s a very difficult one. I am very cautious and the safety of the rider and others on track must come first. My priority is to keep them in a safe position, so it’s not an easy decision but of course, I wouldn’t risk the life of anyone. The most common things with the riders is that they have back and neck problems, this is because of the position they take when they ride the bike – it’s not a natural position for the spine. Combine this with going over a number of bumps and the spine moves, therefore we have to put it back into place and line everything up again. On top of this they often will have several falls during the season. The human body is so complicated and so fantastic that there is always something to be adjusted!”
And it’s not just the riders that feel the effects of travelling the world and working hard, the whole team does too: “In the wider team because we are all travelling so much and we don’t have any time to recover and rest, they often suffer from all the sicknesses connected with tiredness and jet lag,” he says. “The common things you can find from travelling so much include all the ‘usual suspects’ like colds, coughs, achy muscles and tight backs.”
With four riders and a whole team to look after there will always be plenty to do for Dr. Vincenzo Tota.