As part of their commitment to safety, NASCAR recently announced the launch of a 3-year partnership with Oura to arm drivers, teams, and staff with the tools they need to stay on top of their health.
In light of COVID-19, NASCAR sets itself apart among professional sports by focusing their strategy on long-term health initiatives that aim to predict future health needs, rather than prioritizing short-term solutions.
John Bobo, NASCAR’s Vice President of Racing Operations, reaffirms that mission: “Looking at the pandemic and different potential scenarios over the next three years, we knew we wanted to partner with Oura to provide everyone involved in the sport a platform that delivers not only an early warning of potential illness but also insights into their overall health. Right now, everyone is concerned with staying safe and keeping healthy, and thanks to Oura, we found a way to help people accomplish these goals.”
What’s The Plan?
With 36 weeks of competition from February to November each year, NASCAR has one of the longest seasons in professional sports. “To do that takes an incredible safety culture,” Bobo says. “We have race cars on the track every week going over 200mph, and to do that takes a lot of dedicated professionals. Our teams and safety crews are the best in the world at what they do. Part of that is always looking for ways to improve and be better. To be safer.”
On May 17th, only a couple months after the shutdown in March 2020, NASCAR was the first major sport to return to competition. According to Bobo, we can attribute this swift turnaround, in large part, to the nature of the sport itself. “We have some advantages in our sport. There’s no skin-to-skin contact in competition, and competitors are already wearing fire suits, fireproof masks, and fireproof gloves.”
Bobo also shares details about the reopening plan, emphasizing its focus on operating independently of test availability:“At the time of our return, there was also limited availability for testing, and that remains a concern. So as a league, we decided that we needed a plan that would keep us safe while leaving the COVID-19 tests available for the people in our communities that were the most in need. So our protocols require two-tiered medical screenings, PPE, social distancing, and functional compartmentalization. We keep drivers isolated from the road crew, and pit crews are separate from the mechanics, etc. That way if one compartment is impacted, the entire league is not compromised. Due to our safety culture, these protocols were thoroughly embraced by the sport.”
This is where Oura fits into the plan: “Now with Oura’s Health Risk Management platform, we have added another layer of safety allowing people to monitor themselves and make smart decisions about their health.”
The Oura Health Risk Management platform helps organizations to gain an early indication of data anomalies that may correlate with illness symptoms and to better manage outbreaks. This fully private, opt-in only tool will generate a risk score for each NASCAR participant. The risk score takes into accounts meaningful changes in body temperature, respiratory rate, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability, which indicate if an individual may be experiencing symptoms correlated with illness or other conditions
“We love that Oura can potentially alert competitors that they are becoming ill days before they might detect symptoms. It’s not meant to be diagnostic but an early warning system. It’s telling someone they should isolate, seek medical care, or get a COVID-19 test,” Bobo says. “What a person should do depends on their unique situation and health. That’s why this partnership is a win for everyone. Quality data creates actionable data, and Oura gives us that edge.”
Oura: Not Your Average Wearable
Sports medicine physician, Dr. Doug Aukerman, M.D., was the first to put the Oura Ring on NASCAR’s radar. Having worked with Dr. Aukerman for years, NASCAR heeded his advice to examine the latest research around the device.“We knew we had to take a look,” Bobo says. “We had already been looking at a variety of wearables, but when we saw that Oura’s metrics included quality skin temperature and respiratory rate, we knew this could be a game changer. Make no mistake Oura is a leader in the category, but it’s also the perfect set of metrics and analysis for the times.”
Bobo continues his praise, explaining why it was the Oura Ring, and not another wearable, that came out on top.
“And there’s something else about Oura that we love, and that’s nuance. The mistake most people make is trying to focus on one metric like 10,000 steps or their weight or their cholesterol level. People are not one metric. People are complicated, holistic systems that require a sensitive enough tool to pick up on nuance. That’s Oura.
Why is nuance important? We all know the cornerstones of good health: diet, sleep, exercise, and stress management, but how do you pull all that together? Oura provides the micro information that allows you to impact those cornerstones. With Oura, I’ve seen how a late-night meal impacts my resting heart rate and sleep quality and have been able to make changes. After making those changes, I’ve then been able to see how they’ve affected my recovery and performance. It’s all connected – Oura can help us set the dials in the right spot for ultimate performance.”
NASCAR: A Performance Driven Sport
NASCAR is all about performance. With no air conditioners in the car, drivers face temperatures of 134 degrees inside the car while wearing non-breathable fire suits. And Bobo emphasizes the impact these conditions can have on a competitor.
“Driver’s lose 7 to 10 pounds in a single race, and they pull about 4Gs across their core for the entire race. ESPN documented that their hearts beat faster and longer than a marathon runner.”
Bobo continues, “To operate a 3,500 pound race car at 200mph—while 39 other cars are beating, banging and slapping into you to make sure you finish last—is physically demanding and requires nerves of steel. But NASCAR drivers are incredible at what they do, and everytime one of them reaches victory lane, you know what an amazing feat it is for them and their team.”
NASCAR & Oura
“We saw Oura’s ability to help us through the pandemic,” Bobo reiterates, “but we also knew that a partnership would be great for everyone at NASCAR who is focused on performance—whether they are a driver, crew chief, or a race director in the tower.”
“Ultimately,” Bobo concludes, “we’re all trying to navigate these human bodies through the world without a user manual. Oura is an invitation to be curious, a catalyst for personal change, and a call to own your health. That’s huge. That drive, that curiosity, that awareness-training is the daily cup of motivation we all need to make a difference in our performance and lives.”