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12-Year-Old Critically Injured In Oval Track Race

Formaldehyde

Both Fair And Balanced
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Parents defend youth racing after crash critically injures 12-year-old boy

Do you think 12 years old is too young to be racing at oval tracks with concrete walls. much less 5?

"We have 5-year-olds that run to speeds of 40 mph here," said J.R. Garcia, who runs the Ambassador Racing School in Wimauma. "Our 10-year-old drivers have been driving for five years."

By the time her oldest, Teddy, was 7 and Trey was 5, they were hooked. They started racing quarter-midgets and graduated to Bandoleros. Teddy, who just got his learner's permit, now races a full-sized Legend car. His top speed? 80 mph.

"Teddy was 8 the first time he flipped. I almost died," Lively said. "But he came out of it okay. And the first thing he said was, 'When can I go again?' "

Is this just another sign of pushy parents who spend untold amounts of money to try to turn their progeny into the next Jeff Gordon?

Even used cars for young racers run several thousand dollars and up. Parents also have to pay for a trailer to tow the vehicle, upkeep, gas and tires — about $400 per race.

"You start the kids in a smaller, slower car, and they work up in the races to bigger, faster vehicles," said Tommy King, whose 12-year-old daughter learned to race at Garcia's school. "You watch them grow up at the track. You'll have 500 to 1,000 people out there even on the worst Saturday nights."
I have no real problem with racing low-powered go-karts at fairly early ages such as this because the chances of being seriously injured are extremely remote. But oval track racing at purpose-built spectator facilities with concrete walls is an entirely different thing, even at somewhat reduced speeds.
 
Tyler died yesterday:

Autoweek: Embracing the sport that kills

Tyler Morr crashed his black No. 17 into the wall at Auburndale Speedway in Florida last Saturday night. Emergency crews cut him from the car, then airlifted him to the hospital. He hung on for nearly four days. For a while, it appeared that the prayers were working. But at 3:12 p.m. on Wednesday, with his family at his side, Tyler Morr died.

He was 12.

Tyler wasn’t driving a kart or a quarter-midget. He was competing in the Auburndale Kid’s Club, a series that races at the little quarter-mile paved oval alongside modifieds and street stocks. The Kid’s Club cars are four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive cars like Chevrolet Cavaliers, Honda Civics and, a favorite at Auburndale, Dodge Daytonas. Drivers can be as young as five. At that age, they drive, and an adult rides in a passenger seat. As they get older and more experienced, the kids drive by themselves.

Like all of the others in his class, Tyler’s car had a roll cage, window net, belts and a steel-bar-reinforced front bumper. He was wearing a firesuit and a closed-face helmet. When he and fellow racer Justin Cribbs, also 12, got together, Tyler spun and crashed into the concrete wall. Their speed was estimated to be less than 50 mph, and based on the fact that I’ve raced at Auburndale in comparable cars—they are called “Scramblers” when adults race them, and one of the Cavaliers that I own was the series champion a few years ago—I’d think that’s probably right.

A caged stock car hitting a wall at an oval track on a Saturday night? That happens dozens of times at hundreds of tracks across the country. Almost always, the safety equipment does it job. Almost always, the drivers walk away.

And once in a while, they don’t. And we have a tragedy. And when the driver is 12 . . .
Critics, and count on plenty, will criticize the Morr family for allowing their child to race a real car at a real track.

Supporters, and count on plenty—though they won’t get nearly the ink and air time of the critics—will say that Tyler could have died playing football or baseball, or crossing the street. They’ll say that he died “doing what he loved,” which has likely been used to comfort the bereaved since the first caveman died while hunting a saber-toothed tiger. And the hunt, or the races, will go on “because that’s what he would have wanted.”

This Saturday night, there will be a race at Auburndale Speedway in Tyler’s honor. They will pass the hat. If I was home instead of at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’d be there, and I’d probably tow a race car down and compete. Because I reconciled a long time ago that the only sport I care about can be so cruel, so unfair. I decline to apologize or justify. You get it or you don’t. I prefer the company of those who do.

I’ve watched in person nine race-car drivers die. The worst—or the worst so far—was in a midget race. The driver was a paraplegic from a racing crash a few years earlier, and he drove with hand controls. His car flipped over a wall and into the front-stretch fence. I had been in the infield and walked up close. To my right there was the driver’s wife, pushing her husband’s wheelchair to the crash. Her face said “God, please, let him get out and climb into this wheelchair, and we can go home.”

He did not. It was a wrenching, profoundly poignant moment that I will never forget. But next week, and the next, I was back.

All that said, I can’t imagine what the Morr family is going through. To know that you enabled a child to participate in an activity that, by all accounts, he loved but that ended his life, must be almost unbearable. It took me a long time to understand why my father was so frantic and so angry that day when he bought me a brand-new Schwinn—and I promptly rode it right into traffic. My dad and I were lucky. Tyler, and his family, were not.

If you had been praying for Tyler, please, keep on praying for his family. And maybe for all of us who embrace a sport that kills.
 
I didn't either. But I did know it existed in other forms, such as motocross.

http://old.post-gazette.com/healthscience/20021126hdirtbike4.asp

In a recent article in Parade Magazine, third-ranked NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson said he began racing cars at age 15 because his father thought his first love, motocross, was too dangerous.

This bit of trivia caught my eye because I had been directing the rehabilitation of a 15-year-old boy who was in the intensive care unit as a result of a motocross/dirt bike accident while racing a 250cc bike. By the time he left the hospital a month later, he had spent more than three weeks, paralyzed and sedated, on a ventilator, and had lost a lung. This was his third dirt bike accident and second ICU admission in the past year.

Then I heard from the pediatric orthopedic surgeons about a 10-year-old who suffered six fractures in four extremities as the result of a dirt bike accident, shortly after a rod was removed from a fracture in his thigh bone that he sustained in a previous dirt bike accident.

What were these kids doing to themselves, and why were their parents permitting them to do it?

After doing some research, I was shocked to learn the number of children who ride and race dirt bikes. I found a Web site, www.dirtbikekids.com, that is "just for kids (4 to 15 years old) who love dirt bikes." The Racer Profiles page includes postings from children who began riding mini-bikes at age 3, and racing at age 4. My sons were still on tricycles at that age.

The American Motorcyclist Association sanctions competitions run under its official rules, covering Youth to Pro-Am classes. There are restrictions on engine size, from 0-51cc for Peewee Jr. class (ages 4-6) to 80-125cc for Schoolboy class (ages 12-15). However, riders age 12 and above may compete in Amateur classes, although they must be 14 to ride bikes over 250cc. The following warning appears in bold print several times throughout the 25-page rule book: "Motor vehicle mishaps, in competition or otherwise, can result in injury or death. Motor vehicles should never be used by minors without parental consent or supervision." I must confess I know little about the engine sizes of dirt bikes, but I would not allow my 12-year-old son to use a 250cc bike.

Surely such a risky sport must be regulated. What I discovered was the opposite. The manufacture of off-road vehicles is not regulated by federal motor vehicle safety standards. In 1987, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission entered a consent decree with ATV manufacturers in which the industry agreed to cease manufacture and sale of three-wheeled ATVs. In this consent decree, four-wheeled ATVs with engines more than 70cc could only be used by children 12 years or older, and more than 90cc by children 16 and older. However, these restrictions do not apply to two-wheeled vehicles such as dirt bikes. Notice how these restrictions on engine size compare to the motorcyclist association racing rules.

I must admit I wasn't surprised that pushy parents would invade this sport as well.

Just look at Jessica Dubroff, who died at the age of 7 while trying to be the youngest person to fly across the US.

http://www.toptenz.net/10-shocking-deaths-you-may-not-have-heard-of.php

Jessica was born in Hercules, California and quickly became enamored with airplanes. She enrolled in piloting classes and became one of the youngest children ever to fly. The 7-year-old decided that she wanted to be the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States. For her attempt, she would be accompanied by her father and flight instructor. It was a national story and labeled the “Sea to Shining Sea Flight.” The plan was to make numerous stops along the way, dividing the voyage into sections. Her flight was constantly followed by news outlets and general supporters. Minutes after taking off from the Cheyenne, Wyoming airport her aircraft crashed in a heavy and sudden rainstorm. Everyone on board was killed. It was concluded that the airplane was overweight and the poor decision to continue with the mission despite the incoming bad weather was the cause of the crash. Her famous last words were recorded “Do you hear the rain, do you hear the rain?” Jessica Dubroff was a true explorer and aviation pioneer. She was a special girl who will greatly be missed.

Did Jessica "decide" at the age of 7 to set the record? Or did her parents? Was Jessica really a "true explorer and aviation pioneer? Or was she just yet another victim of parents who live vicariously through their children? Parents who push them to become celebrities in a world dominated by the adoration of same?
 
Children have collapsed and died even playing soccer. My issue is exposing young children to physical danger which could quite likely kill them from traumatic injuries, such as racing on ovals or racing more powerful dirt bikes, not physical activity which may cause their deaths quite likely due to other medical conditions.

Has a 12-year-old ever died from traumatic injury while playing properly supervised football with children his own age when they were all wearing the appropriate protective gear? Are they also the potential victims of concussive injuries like older players apparently are? If so, then yes, I would say they shouldn't be playing football at that age. But I have yet to see any evidence of this.

Would you let a 12-year-old solo skydive?


Link to video.


Link to video.
 
http://www.vcstar.com/news/2009/oct/14/autopsy-head-injury-led-to-death-of-10-year-old/
http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/09/nation/na-football9

... and I didn't bother looking beyond the second result. There's also a lot of heatstroke deaths and deaths from heart defects, but I don't think I can blame football for that.

I think we have to accept rare freak accidents happen to people that don't deserve it. I think the alternative, mollycoddling, ignores that part of what play is about is kids learning their physical limits. Depriving kids of the opportunity to sprain ankles and break arms does not help them as adults.
 
There isn't anything wrong with breaking arms or spraining ankles on rare occasions, but I don't think any child should compete in a sport where there is a good chance he will be turned into a paraplegic or even killed from a traumatic injury. There is plenty of time for such inherently dangerous sports once he gets to the age to decide for himself.

The first of the incidents you found above was called "extremely rare" and a "freak accident" by medical authorities. If there was a major outbreak of subdural hematomas instead of freakish occurrences, it would be a different story.

When I was 8 years old, I dislocated my shoulder and broke an arm learning how to jump horses after my own freakish accident. It left me scared to death of hyperactive horses, which wasn't helped one bit when my cousin and uncle decided to put me on a frisky stallion the next year thinking it would be funny. The horse sensed my fear and promptly bolted nearly killing me on an overhanging branch while running back to the barn. But I'd certainly not try to ban any child from learning to do the same thing.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think there is anything wrong with dangerous sports. A driver died at my very first road race just before I went out to qualify in the rain. Over half the contestants decided not to race that weekend but not me. At my very next race weekend, someone else died of a heart attack. But it certainly didn't deter me in the least. However, I'd certainly never allow my own 12-year-old child to do anything that dangerous.
 
Certainly your OP could also be described as a freak accident, no? How many deaths (or serious injuries like quadriplegia) have happened vs how many hours have been driven? All we know is the kid died in an accident, but that's not enough information to say it's an inherently dangerous activity.
 
Racing on ovals with concrete walls is an inherently dangerous sport. This wasn't a freak accident. It was inevitable. And it will happen again and again.

Even NASCAR has finally decided to minimize the dangers somewhat with SAFER barriers, HANS devices, far better racing seats, and vehicles specifically designed to minimize injuries under these conditions, none of which has gotten down to this level of racing.
 
NASCAR drivers also drive at much higher speeds, perhaps making the safety equipment more important. I just worked out the math and a stock car at 180mph has roughly 12 times the kinetic energy as these kids at 50 mph (I used a Dodge Daytona's curb weight for the kid's car).

You compared this to go-kart racing. If you scroll to page 15, 5 kids died racing go-karts between 1990 and 1999 (http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia00/os/go-kart.pdf). While I imagine many more kids were racing go-karts than actual cars (and thus [total number of drivers / deaths] for go-karts is lower), I'm not sure your comparison is totally apt. Danger is part of life and while we should mitigate it we shouldn't try and avoid it at all costs.

For what it's worth, I think the idea of letting preteens race real cars is all around stupid.
 
Well, there, we actually agree.

It doesn't take a great deal of speed to die when you hit a concrete wall or other immovable object, especially if you hit with the drivers side door in a normal vehicle where the seat hasn't been moved farther from the side and you have inadequate safety equipment.

Allowing kids to race in front of spectators at oval tracks with concrete walls is relatively new. I expect the number of injuries and deaths to increase substantially as it becomes more popular.

And personally, I think 5 deaths in 10 years from racing go-karts is far too many. I am stunned it is actually that high. But what I find even more appalling is that 113 children under the age of 15 were killed in those 10 years, so 108 of them weren't even at a proper facility with adequate supervision, course marshals, and emergency crews. What the heck is wrong with parents?
 
Yeah, there is no way in hell I'd let my pre-teen kid participate in something like this. Waaaay too dangerous.
 
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