INDIANAPOLIS -- The 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is nearly here. On Sunday, drivers from around the world will travel at speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour. Sometimes they crash, which can put them in the speedway’s infield hospital.
But that hospital sees more than just crash injuries.
"So we treat a variety of things with the drivers," says Geoff Billows, an emergency physician for IU Health. On race day and the days leading up to it, he’s detailed at the infield hospital. Billows treats the drivers for the obvious injuries from crashes, but he also treats them for more mundane illnesses. "You know, this is sinus alley here. They come in here and get a stuffy nose."
The drivers get their own special area in the clinic, so they don’t get mobbed by fans. But most of the action is on the spectator side of the clinic. Billows says on a typical race day, they see between 500 and 600 patients. One year, they had 1,500.
"There's several hundred thousand people here on race day. It's the size of a city, so we see things that any clinic might see," he says. Headaches, strokes, heart attacks, asthma. "Pretty much anything."
"Anything" also includes some preventable stuff. The Indy 500 is a lot like other outdoor sporting events. It can be sunny and hot, which leads to things like sunburns and dehydration. And there’s drinking — obviously — which can add to those issues and cause problems on its own.
So for people who are planning to attend, Billows has some simple advice:
"Make sure you stay hydrated," he says. "Bring sunglasses, bring suncreen. Wear clothes that are light and make sure you protect yourself if you're in the sun."
Wise words. The forecast right now is calling for 87 degrees on Sunday.