DESERT CHALLENGE TAKES WORLD CUP TO NEW SAFETY LEVELS

Al Noor Hospital medical laboratory to protect drivers and riders from dehydration threat

Dubai, UAE, 5th October: New medical safety measures will help competitors in the UAE Desert Challenge combat the threat of dehydration when they tackle some of the Middle East's most demanding desert terrain next month.

Al Noor Hospital, Abu Dhabi, is enhancing the medical care it provides throughout the event by supplying a mobile laboratory and two technicians to analyse blood samples taken from drivers and riders.

By measuring levels of sodium, the medical team will be able to tell whether competitors are adequately hydrated in the five-day event, which is the final round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup and the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of the organising committee, said: "Competitor safety is our top priority and we're indebted to Al Noor Hospital for providing us with equipment and dedicated medical volunteers year after year. Chief medical officer Dr Ricardo Al Khouri and his team do a fantastic job and we're especially grateful to Dr Kassem Alom, the director of Al Noor Hospital, for his continued support.

Added Sulayem: "There are risks in events like this because of the heat and the terrain, but competitors can avoid problems by following medical advice." Dr Al Khouri urges all competitors to hydrate their body over a minimum period of 48 hours before the event, and then to maintain maximum water intake throughout. He also wants competitors to take daily blood tests to track their hydration levels.

"Dehydration is by far the biggest danger facing drivers and riders in the event," said Dr Al Khouri. "It is a gravely underestimated condition and competitors can put themselves in danger by not taking it seriously. By analysing blood samples with this new equipment we will be able to detect dehydration in its early stages, and advise competitors on what they should be doing to prepare their bodies adequately for the next day.

He added: "In most cases we'll simply need to recommend drinking water or special rehydration fluids. But we do retain the power to withdraw any of the competitors on medical grounds if we perceive them to be at risk of serious dehydration.'

The Desert Challenge is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Nissan Middle East - with the Nissan Patrol the rally's official car - Dubai Waterfront, an 81 million square metre development by major developers Nakheel, and Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. Enthusiasts can keep up to speed with the event by visiting www.uaedesertchallenge.com

Backed by five trauma specialists from Dubai's Neuro-Spinal Surgery Hospital, the 16-strong team of volunteers from Al Noor Hospital will be on 24-hour alert to provide medical support for almost 1,000 competitors, mechanics, marshals, police, and media.

From the Moreeb Hill medical centre at the rally's base, 20kms south of Liwa, they cover the rally route in 4WDs and man ambulances at strategic locations. Helicopters are also present to airlift injured competitors to one of the nearby hospitals which are on permamnent standby during the event.

The safety plan for the Desert Challenge is the most advanced in World Cup rallying. It includes the use of a sophisticated satellite tracking system which traces the progress of each competitor and alerts the organisers if someone gets into trouble.

-www.totalcompr.com