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Hamlin suffers spinal compression fracture

Denny Hamlin has a compression fracture that will put him out of racing for at least six weeks following a nasty wreck at the end of Sunday's race, his team Joe Gibbs Racing has confirmed.
Denny Hamlin's 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship campaign hangs in the balance this week after it was confirmed that he'd sustained a serious lower back injury in the hard hit he took at the and of the Auto Club 400 race at Fontana on Sunday afternoon.

"Hamlin suffered a L1 compression fracture following an accident on the final lap," his team Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed in a statement released early on Monday. "Hamlin hopes to be released today to fly to his home in North Carolina where he will be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates later this week."

Hamlin himself tweeted from his hospital bed in California on Monday morning, stating that "I just want to go home." He was finally released shortly before 8pm in the evening, walking without assistance but wearing a back brace under his clothes to stop him from bending or twisting, and having noticeable difficulties with his breathing.

As he left the hospital, Hamlin told USA Today that he'd felt a 'pop' in his back during the crash and been unable to breath while seated in the car immediately afterwards, which is why he had felt the need to climb out. "When I felt a pop, I couldn't move at all and I knew I had to get flat to my back to be able to breathe again. That's why I rushed out and just laid flat on the ground to start breathing," he said.

JGR subsequently released an update on Tuesday stating that Hamlin would not require surgery for the injury, but would be sidelined for at least six weeks. The driver hasn't missed an event in 264 Cup starts, ever since the end of the end of the 2005 season.

Any prolonged absence from racing would almost certainly doom Hamlin's chances of making it into the end-of-season Chase play-offs for the Cup championship, as he is currently only in tenth position in the points standings after five races.

Back injuries are at the top of every motor racing driver's list of worries, since they can force a driver out of the race seat for weeks or even months while they heal as further impacts to an existing injury can exacerbate the situation and lead to far more serious spinal problems, something that Hamlin was keenly aware of as he left hospital. "I don't want to make it worse," he said. "It's not worth that."

British driver Justin Wilson missed the second half of the IndyCar Series season in 2011 after sustaining a compression fracture in his fifth thoracic vertebra during a practice session, and was forced to wear a back brace for several months while the injury healed. He was out of racing for nearly six months as a result.

Other notable recent back injuries have happened to Will Power (at Sonoma in 2009) and Anthony Davidson (at Le Mans in 2012), both of whom suffered more extensive spinal fractures and were immobilised in bed for several weeks afterwards, which does not appear to be the case with Hamlin. A closer equivalence might be the L1 injury sustained by IndyCar's Dario Franchitti in a motorbike accident in 2003, but that itself also ended up requiring surgery which put Franchitti out of racing for nine months in total.




Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, walks down pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, stands on the grid after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2013 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota,comes to rest on pit road after a collision with Joey Logano (not pictured), driver of the #22 AAA Southern California Ford, during the final lap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 24, 2013 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, walks down pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron`s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 4, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron`s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 4, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron`s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 4, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

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lynn - Unregistered

March 27, 2013 2:58 PM

I have never been a fan of Hamlins but not because he isn't a good driver but because he is a big crybaby but I never wish any driver to get hurt. Dislike of a driver on the track is not a personal thing but just a racing thing. I wish Hamlin a speedy recovery and hope everything comes out well for his return. As for the comment that his championship hopes hangs in the balance, they will not happen at all this year, no driver can recover from a 6 race points loss. He would have to make up 258 points plus what it would take to move in front of the top 12 in the chase. I would say there is a 99% chance this won't happen. Hope for a speedy and complete recovery for Hamlin



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