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Upright MRI Technology

Utilising the unique benefits of positional and weight-bearing imaging

The Challenge

F1 Spinal Solutions is using emerging technology to benefit driver performance and spinal health.

What can be done

How F1 Spinal Solutions is working to help the high performance driver

F1 seat mounted in rig

The seat is mounted into a special rig allowing the driver to strap in and simulate race conditions as much as possible in the scanner.

Interpreting the Data

The driver/seat interface can be accurately mapped and analysed in great detail.

Welcome to the home of F1 Spinal Solutions

Consultants in Applied Medical Biomechanics

We work with the motor vehicle and motor racing industries to bring the diagnostic benefits of weight-bearing MRI to serve high-performance drivers and other elite athletes.

What is Weight-bearing MRI?

Conventional MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is the best imaging modality to look at bones, joints and spinal discs. It provides a vast amount of information regarding the anatomy and pathology of the musculoskeletal system.

Because of the way MRI was developed, a typical scanner images the patient in the supine (lying down) position. However, for regions that are normally weight-bearing like the spine, an abnormality may well be much less obvious. The spinal discs, for example, are exposed to a pressure that is 11-times higher when sitting than when lying down. Disc bulges and herniations are therefore much more likely to become apparent or reveal their true size.

Our partnership with the Medserena Upright/Weight-bearing MRI Centre allows us to image patients in a variety of positions. This is extremely helpful, especially in those whose pain/pathology is position dependent or elucidated by movement. Additionally, as the Upright system is entirely open, it has great appeal to those who are unable to undertake a conventional scan due to claustrophobia, large body habitus, or whom are unable to lie down due to a spinal curve or pain.

What does weight-bearing MRI offer?

With our unique application of the MRI technology, we are able to perform a comprehensive analysis of the spine under load and in a variety of positions.

With this technique, MR images may be taken in more realistic body positions so that positional and structural changes of the spinal disc or other spinal structures may be correlated with pain or other symptoms. In many cases, we have demonstrated clinically relevant nerve compression, vertebral instability and significant spinal canal stenosis. These may well be occult/much less severe on conventional MR images obtained in the supine position.

The F1 cockpit is an unforgiving environment.

The F1 cockpit is an unforgiving environment. You’re lying on your back with your feet and knees level with your shoulders and your backside only millimetres off the ground. You’re in a thinly padded seat, but the car has almost no suspension: the set up being focused on car performance not on driver comfort. Then, under race conditions, there are enormous stresses on the driver’s bodies.

Red Bull Racing’s Chief Engineer is quoted as saying…

“The accelerative forces experienced by a driver are lateral and longitudinal, with the peaks exceeding 4.5g. Military pilots experience greater g loads, but these are typically aligned with the spine, whereas an F1 driver endures these loads almost at right angles to the spine.”

Lewis Hamilton, on “The Clare Balding Show“, when discussing how he coped with G forces, commented…

“…it’s like holding 50 kilos on your neck for up to 8 seconds…”

Add in the heat from an engine inches away, the engine noise and vibration and it’s not surprising that drivers can suffer. Alonso, Raikkonen and Bottas all missed races in the the last three seasons due to back problems.

Why is ensuring Drivers’ Spinal Health so important?

There’s benefit for all involved, not just the driver

To the driver:

  • Maximising their race performance during each race.
  • Maximising their earning potential whilst racing.
  • Ensuring their long term spinal health after they’ve retired from competitive racing.

To the Race Team:

  • Minimising back discomfort during each race means the driver can maximise their performance during race conditions.
  • Maximising the potential returns on the investment in the driver – by reducing their ‘down time’ through back injury.
  • Minimising the injury risk – an ergonomically fitting seat will hold the driver more securely in the result of an accident.

To the industry:

  • Enhancing the safety and industry reputation
  • Less injury and fitter drivers ensures sponsors and the public can always see ‘their’ drivers racing.

How F1 Spinal Solutions is helping the driver and the industry

F1 Spinal Solutions offers a unique diagnostic package

We provide:

  • Specialist Spinal Imaging
  • Medical Report
  • Dedicated bio-mechanical reporting
  • In-seat weight-bearing MRI technology
  • Enables F1 driver/seat analysis to identify
    ◦ Spinal health optimisation
    ◦ Identify existing interface shortcomings
  • Advice on short and long term bio-mechanical solutions to reduce or even remove back discomfort

You supply:

  • A glass fibre seat (no wider than 420mm and non-ferrous metals & no carbon fibre)
  • The driver in race overalls (no metal zips)
  • 3 hours to suit your availability

We supply:

  • In-depth spinal analysis at the Medserena Upright MRI Centre, to identify any existing weaknesses, potential stress points and recommendations to alleviate back discomfort
  • Fully annotated report with recommendations
  • Face to face feedback
  • Follow-up as maybe required

The F1 cockpit...

…is an unforgiving environment…

lying on your back with your knees level with your shoulders
in a thinly padded seat but with almost no suspension
exposed to up to 5.4g longitudinally
experiencing up to 6g laterally for up to 8 seconds at a time
with the heat and noise from the engine just behind you
and subject to intense vibration

It’s not surprising that drivers can suffer. Alonso, Raikkonen and Bottas all missed races in the last 3 seasons due to back problems.


By utilising the Upright MRI system…

…we are able to comprehensively assess spine health and accurately visualize and grade pathology/injury.

Some injuries may well be occult when imaged in the traditional lying down position.

We are also able to image other body regions at the same sitting if needs be, thus maximizing time efficiency for busy professionals.

Seat Rig

F1 Spinal Solutions partnered with Mercedes Grand Prix Ltd. in the development of this unique MRI technique.

The fibreglass version of the driver’s own seat was mounted into the wooden rig and the driver was able to strap in to simulate race conditions as closely as possible.

We are able to give feedback on positioning and spinal support with an accuracy of a millimeter. Mapping these changes on the race seat helps the seat engineers visualize regions of interest.

Partnering with Mercedes GP Ltd.

F1 Spinal Solutions partnered with Mercedes Grand Prix Ltd. in the development of this unique MRI technique.

With precise MRI sequence manipulation and novel seat labelling technology, we are able to accurately map the interface between the driver and the seat in the driving position.

From just a single scanning session, we were then able to feedback four separate recommendations to the driver to optimize race fit and comfort.

Who are F1 Spinal Solutions?

Thought leadership and application delivery in MRI diagnosis

F1 Spinal Solutions was founded by Tim Scurlock and Dr Steve Morgan in 2014 to solve the problems of back pain and discomfort for racing drivers through the analysis of weight bearing MRI and the application of bio-mechanics.

Tim brings valuable insight and experience from a 20 year career in the motor industry, where he has been involved in a variety of projects both in the UK and globally.

He led a pan-European problem-solving team streamlining and driving efficiency into processes and brings a wealth of experience to the F1SS team.

Steve is a Consultant Spinal Radiologist with over 10 years MRI specific knowledge. He works in the NHS at Southmead Hospital Bristol; a large tertiary referral and Major Trauma Centre.

He has a firm belief in the advantages of weight-bearing and dynamic imaging for comprehensive spinal analysis, and has consulted at the Medserena Upright MRI Centre since its inception.

The work of F1 Spinal Solutions is supported by Prof. Francis Smith, a Consultant Radiologist. Francis is a pioneer of, and has worked with, MRI since 1980. He has written over 250 scientific papers. He is a vocal advocate in the benefits of Upright and Weightbearing MRI, purchasing the first Upright scanner in the UK. He currently consults at Medserena in London.

Tim comments…

“We can’t make the car go faster, but we can reduce drivers discomfort so they can focus 100% on winning races.”


Steve comments…

“The combination of positional MRI technology coupled with its adaptation allows for the first time accurate driver/seat interface analysis in the driving position. This is a truly unique solution.”

Contact Us

If you have any questions on weight-bearing MRI, please do get in touch

Medserena Upright MRI Centre

We’re here!

Medserena Upright MRI Centre,
Cromwell Rd, Kensington,
London, SW7 4ES
Tel: 0845 519 7747

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About Us

We are a small team of passionate developers bringing together synergies in MRI technologies and motorsport to enhance F1 driver performance.

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© F1SpinalSolutions 2014

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Contact us today to find out how we can help you to utilise emerging MRI technologies which can be readily applied to improving driver comfort, durability and performance.