Perspective is Everything

Demolition Derby

How do derby drivers walk away without the aches and pains that are typically associated with minor collisions?

This is a recent letter from my Faculty Mentor, Dr. David P. Rakel:


Greetings Gundersenites!

Congratulations on making through the first couple of weeks to 1st years!

We recently worked with the UW Medical foundation to be able to include patient health goals in our medical record system, HealthLink. This allows us to ask the patient what they want their health for. Understanding this helps us learn what will motivate individuals to make healthy choices.

Spirituality is a connection with that which gives life meaning and purpose. This is an important process for every human being that can set self-healing mechanisms in motion, no matter what one connects to.

Viktor Frankl defined this in his seminal book, Man’s (and Women’s) Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963. p 104. He studied Holocaust survivors and wanted to know how someone could maintain their health despite experiencing such injustice and psychological trauma. He concluded that…

“Everything can be taken from a man but…the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

On a lighter but related note, let’s talk about Demolition Derby!

Why don’t these guys and girls get neck pain?

Research has shown that after ONE motor vehicle accident, there is a 10 % chance that a person will have neck pain (“whiplash”) that will last more than a year.

In a survey of 40 demolition derby drivers who average 30 events with 54 collisions per derby (more than one! 30 x 54 = 1,620) with 55% being rear-enders, only 1 had neck pain that lasted more than a year (0.025%)! Simotas, et al. Neck pain in demolition derby drivers.  Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 86: 693-696. 2005

Why such a difference in the incidence of neck pain in collisions that happen on our streets compared to those in a Derby? There are likely many, but one that floats to the top is the fact that Derby drivers are having fun doing it.  The context in which we live our lives can make a big difference in the degree of our physical dis-ease.

So as you slump over your computers and books, remember that what you are learning is pretty cool stuff and it will allow you to connect to meaning in a career where we have the privilege to be of service to others. So maybe this will help calm that knot in your neck! Have a great week!!



Dr. Rakel is board certified in family medicine, sports medicine and holistic medicine. He also is certified in interactive guided imagery. He was one of the first graduates of a two-year fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. He then came to the University of Wisconsin to start the Integrative Medicine program in 2001. He is editor of one of the main texts in the field, entitled Integrative Medicine. He has been awarded a number of teaching awards including the Baldwin E. Lloyd clinical teacher award, the UW Department of Family Medicine faculty excellence award, the Marc Hansen lecture award and the resident teacher-of-the-year award. His interests include learning how the body self-heals, mind- body health influences, sports medicine, nutrition and incorporating health and healing curriculum into medical school education, a project for which he has NIH funding.

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