Arm Pump: The Devil’s Work

R04 WSB Donington P&H 24-05-15 059

Arm pump is the devil’s work, pure and simple. Any trackday regular or racer who has suffered this nasty, inexplicable ailment will comprehend the damage it can cause, whether it be spoiling a trackday session or utterly ruining a race weekend. I’m not going to lie: it’s bungled my racing exploits over the years.

There’s no concrete remedy for Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS, as it’s known on the docs’ sheet) or the more openly interpreted and confused phrase, carpal tunnel. “Arm pump is a clinical condition in which an individual develops intermittent marked pain in the forearms after a period of exercise or exertion.  The pain is thought to arise due to swelling of the muscles of the forearm that affects the blood flow to these muscle and causes the oxygen levels to drop.” Thanks, Doc…

The fabled surgery has proven to aid a massive percentage of world-class riders in recent times and you get gnarly scars to boot. But most of us haven’t got the readies – usually nearer £5k unless you visit a backstreet Barry – to splash out on such luxuries, and convincing the NHS that your official occupation is a motorcycle racer has proven futile.

Contrary to popular belief, spanking a motorcycle (particularly the latest batch of 200bhp howitzers) round a track for 20 minutes is exhausting enough without factoring in frickin’ arm pump. The introduction of quickshifters and throttle-blippers have brought some negligible relief but you can be as fit as a triathlete yet still suffer. As well as discomfort and being forced to wobble round like a wet lettuce, arm pump is bloody dangerous: lack of feeling that leads to poor braking inputs, steering and, in the worst cases, whiskey throttle. Brain, tell right hand to grab lever. Right hand, sod off. Oh shit – there’s the gravel trap.

Hordes of riders congregate in the excellent medical facilities at every British Superbike round for a pre/post-race massage, or that funny-looking tape, in an attempt to alleviate fatigue, but there’s now another medicinal option that’s coming to the fore.

Some of you will recall my Ducati Cup race at Donington Park WSB a few months ago, where – in desperation – I called for the help of some hardcore drugs from a mate. Brad Howell is a former racer who’s switched to athlete ‘feeding’, with a range of concoctions designed to reduce fatigue and arm pump that conform to anti-doping regs, although I wouldn’t like to get pulled over by some rozzers and explain the massive bag of what looks like amphetamines.

Initially, I thought it must be too good to be true, but after a race without suffering, I can see why Brad’s company, Physique Design works with a host of leading racers in the BSB paddock: Josh Brookes and James Ellison to name a few.

Probably majorly late to the shindig, I’ve managed to get my hands on a party bag from Physique Design for this weekend’s British Superbike finale at Brands Hatch, with a selection of pre and post-race feeds to enjoy. Of course, there’s no quantifiable method of defining its success other than feedback and hopefully pace during the latter stages of the sessions/races, but we’ll let you know the findings in next week’s video…

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