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Physiological Responses of Male and Female Race Car Drivers during Competition


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 12 - p 2570–2577
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001997

Automobile racing is one of the largest spectator sports in the world with male and female drivers competing together. Popular media has speculated on the relative capabilities of males and females in automobile racing, yet there are no scientific investigations examining physiological responses to racing among males and females.

Purpose 1) To evaluate the physiological responses of male and female drivers in open and closed cockpit race cars, 2) to examine the moderating influence of menstrual cycle phase on physiological responses to racing among female drivers.

Methods HR, breathing rate, skin temperature, core temperature, and Physiological Strain Index (PSI) were measured using the Equivital Life Monitor in male (n = 6) and female (n = 6) drivers at three races in open or closed cockpit cars. Among females, menstrual cycle phase for each race was recorded.

Results During racing conditions there was no difference (P > 0.05) between male and female drivers for HR, skin temperature, core temperature, or PSI. The female drivers had a higher (P < 0.001) breathing rate compared with the male drivers. Compared with the follicular phase, the luteal phase had an increased (P < 0.001) HR, breathing rate, skin temperature, core temperature, and PSI. The closed cockpit cars elicited (P < 0.001) a higher skin temperature, core temperature and PSI as compared with the open cockpit cars.

Conclusions There were no differences in the physiological responses to automobile racing between male and female drivers. The luteal phase elicited higher physiological responses than the follicular phase, but was not different from the male drivers. Thereby, practitioners should focus on reducing stresses induced by a closed cockpit race car as opposed to the menstrual cycle.

Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Address for correspondence: David P. Ferguson, Ph.D., R.C.E.P., Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, Room 27S, 308 W. Circle Dr., East Lansing, MI 48824; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2019.

Accepted for publication March 2019.

Online date: April 4, 2019

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine