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Like all forms of motor sport, rallying can be dangerous. For this reason, the teams in the World Rally Championship need to be geared up for any medical eventuality, whether that’s an emergency, a minor injury or some preventative action to keep the team personnel fit and healthy.

The man in charge of all medical matters for the Subaru World Rally Team is John Jones. Here, experienced paramedic John talks about what his role on a rally involves, as well what he carries in his kit bags…

John typically arrives at each rally on Tuesday, four days before the event starts. One of his first jobs is to check that the drivers and co-drivers have arrived fit and healthy and are in good shape for the recce.

“If the drivers have travelled directly from a test I will also speak to the test team paramedic, Kelvin Watkiss, to ensure there have been no problems there,” explains John.

From Wednesday onwards John is based at the service park where he liaises with John Mills, the team’s performance trainer, to check if there is any ongoing performance or training issues with the drivers. John also acts as the team’s travelling doctor, looking after the health of the rest of the team, helping them to stay fit and healthy and tending to any problems that might crop up.

At the start of a rally week John always ensures his medical kit is up to date and replaces any out of date drugs or medical gases. He also attends a rally doctor’s meeting, along with a medical representative from each of the other teams. Once the rally starts John can often be found in the service area, re-filling the ‘camel pack’ drink containers in the rally cars.

“These are bags containing water with energy supplements for the drivers to drink whilst out on the stages, this is extremely important on the hot events,” he says.

To each rally John brings three very large boxes full of medical equipment. Box one contains a spinal immobilisation kit, box two the paramedic responder kit and box three the general wounds kit.

“You will find a wide variety of equipment inside these boxes,” John says. “The paramedic responder kit contains an airway management kit. This is used to keep a patient’s airway clear in the event of an emergency. This piece of equipment is accompanied by a resuscitation kit which automatically ventilates the lungs once the patient’s airway is clear.

“Also in this box you will find the intravenous access kit - this is used to give instant access for emergency drugs.”

The general wound kit contains over-the-counter-drugs, general medicines and viral treatments, as well as a diabetic and burns kit.

“This is the most common piece of kit used as quite often the technicians suffer minor cuts and burns whilst servicing the cars.”

John was working as the team paramedic when Petter Solberg and Phil Mills had a lucky escape from a nasty accident on Rally Deutschland 2004, when Phil was briefly knocked unconscious. Phil was taken to hospital in an ambulance where John met him.

“I went to the hospital where Phil was being treated in the high dependency unit and spoke to the doctors treating him to understand the extent of his injuries.
 
”Luckily his injuries weren’t serious and after the standard tests he was released the next day. To enable him to fly home the hospital had to issue a ‘fit to fly’ certificate and I had to fly with him to comply with the conditions of this. Petter’s injuries weren’t as bad as Phil’s, he was just a little shaken and was checked over at the hospital then released the same day.”

When he’s not jetting off around the world on rallies John spends his time working for the Welsh Ambulance service as the ambulance officer and paramedic team leader.

“I really enjoy visiting the different countries, having worked for the team for five years I have visited many interesting places,” he says. “My favourite is definitely Australia: it has such a laid back and relaxed atmosphere with plenty of places to visit.”
 
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