In Preparation: The Asterisk  Mobile Medic Unit

In Preparation The Asterisk Mobile Medic Unit

August 3, 2011 12:30pm
The Asterisk Mobile Medic unit is a very important part of the professional motocross scene. Each week Dr. Bodnar, Eddie Casillas and a host of other dedicated professionals donate their time to travel to every round of the AMA Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Outdoor Motocross series, all to give back and help a sport that they love. In this interview, we sit down with head athletic trainer Eddie Casillas to get a insider's perspective on how the Asterisk Mobile Medic unit travels from city to city and how the people who volunteer their time manage to make it to each round while holding down full time jobs during the week.

Racer X: Eddie, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to talk with us and tell people about the Asterisk Mobile Medic Unit.
Eddie Casillas: No problem, Tim, it's my pleasure.

Start by telling me what your role is at Asterisk.

I am the head athletic trainer and I have been with Asterisk for close to ten years now. When I am at the track I take care of anything from preventative medicine, so that would be evaluations of riders that come to race who may have been injured practicing during the week or injured the week prior and we tape them up and take care of them before that week's race. So that is the preventative side, and then we have the onsite medical care. So any of the trauma stuff that like evaluating an injury on the field for anything from a guy spraining an ankle to a compound fracture of his femer. And then after the race is over I'll consult with the athletes and possibly help them get set up with a physician during the week or advice on how to manage their injury.

Photo: Simon Cudby

What other staff is involved and how many people does it take to run that unit?
The minimal staff that goes to each race is the truck driver, one nurse, one physician, and one athletic trainer. And then of course we have Tom Carson who is the team manager at Asterisk. But for some races, particularly in California, we have additional physicians, nurses and athletic trainers who come in and volunteer their time. So at times we have six or seven people at a race. But the main group of people consists of a nurse, a doctor, an athletic trainer and the truck driver. And from that we have six or seven different nurses to choose from that are available for a race and the same goes with the doctors. But Doc Bodnar is the head doctor and we have four other physicians that can rotate through.

So who is in charge each week to make sure the truck is staffed and stocked and everyone gets to the races?
Well, we each do our own travel plans as far as flying, hotels, and rental cars. Dr. Bodnar puts out a memorandum at the beginning of the year and says this is what an average weekend should cost you expense wise and try to stay within that. So we foot the bill and they reimburse us through the Asterisk Mobile Medical fund. The logistics of the truck, like maintenance and all that, Tom Carson takes care of all that and oversees the entire program. So if there is an issue at the track where the truck is located or if the truck breaks down on the way to the race or anything like that, Tom handles that component. Dr. Bodnar handles the medical component.

Where does the truck go in between rounds? Does the truck driver immediately drive to the next location and just sit there? And what about weekends when there is no race on the schedule? What does the driver do then?
It all depends, really, and the truck driver is given some leeway. If he can make it to the next round and he has enough time to go home, they may go ahead and buy him a flight home. Or if he has some place he can go to in between, just as long as he makes it to the race on time, he can go there.

That is interesting. So if the driver flies home, what do you do with the truck?
Well, let's say there is a big gap like we have right now. The driver may decide to drive the truck a certain distance and then fly home from there. Or he can leave the truck at the track, fly home, do his deal and then fly back and get the truck whereever he left it and then go to the next race. There a lot of different scenarios that can happen.

Photo: Simon Cudby

I'm sure the truck driver is one of the only parts of the Asterisk team who is making a living. The rest of you are basically volunteers with full-time jobs during the week. How do you manage to fit it all in?
You are right. This a big thing that I want people and riders to really understand. When you look at a race team on the circuit with us; that mechanic, that rider, that team manager are doing their jobs. They don't have other full-time jobs during the week. You don't have team managers who manage the team on the weekend and then go off to another job during the week. You don't have a mechanic who does job at the race then during the week has a construction job or something. But the Asterisk's team, that is exactly what we do. Dr. Bodnar is an ER doc and he has to take his vacation time and days off to travel to the event. Myself, I have to do the same thing. I technically only work one day of the week for Asterisk and that is on Saturday. I travel on Friday and Sunday so I have to take a day off from work on Friday and obviously a day away from my family on Sunday, and during the week I have my own sports medicine clinic that I run. We do all get paid for Saturday's work, but it is very minimal for the time involved. Asterisk would love to pay us all our normal rates but there just isn't the funding for it.

We don't have a budget like a race team. A competitive factory race team will say, okay, it's a million dollars to go racing, minimum for all the riders, mechanics, and everyone else involved. They then get sponsors who say, 'Okay there is enough exposure and I want to go ahead and do that.' Well with Asterisk, it's not as easy to do that. Asterisk allocates a majority of its marketing budget to fund the medical program but that amount still does not cover all the expenses. It's not a team that gets a lot of exposure. People aren't going to the race to watch Asterisk. It's hard to get a sponsor to say, 'Yeah, we'll shell out 250K to be your sponsor.' It just doesn't work that way. So that makes it pretty tough for us to keep the truck on the road. Use of Asterisk Medical is FREE to riders.

So how do you do the fundraising, and where does the money come from?
Well, it's probably a minimum of 10K per race weekend to operate the truck, including everyone's travel, lodging, and food. A large part of the money comes from Asterisk as a part of their marketing budget. Tom would know better than I, but I believe a good portion of their marketing dollars goes to the truck. Without Asterisk, the truck would be parked. A good portion of money comes from MX Sports and Feld and we have various fundraisers throughout the year that we do to help generate funds.

Well, Eddie, you guys provide an invaluable service to all the riders at each race. It's never easy to raise money, but in this case you would think that the service you guys provide, riders would be throwing money at you.
Yeah, well, we wish that was the case, but unfortunately it doesn't happen like that. But it's all good because everyone on the Asterisk team does it because we love the sport and we think it is important to make sure the riders get top quality care. Yes there is a cost to keeping our program afloat but more importantly is the value of our program.  To give you an example, I remember talking to a team manager about having a rider skip a race due to injury and that team manager explaining to me that it would cost his team 20k in lost advertisement revenue if any of his riders missed one race. If the Asterisk team is able to help a rider get into the main or perhaps maintain there points lead in the championship series how do you place a dollar amount on that?  To a privateer that might mean enough money to get to the next race and for a factory team that might mean millions for winning a championship. The COST/Time savings to the rider and promoter. Cost for someone to be transported by ambulance to E.R. then have a full work up done X-rays, medicine, splints, iv's .... 5-10K. Cost at Asterisk $0.00

Thanks for your time, Eddie. And I'm sure I speak for anyone who has ever had the misfortune of meeting you at a race because they were injured, thanks for being there!
No problem, Tim. Thanks for the interview.

If you would like to learn more about the Asterisk Mobile Medic Unit and how you can help, please visit their website.