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When one of NASCAR’s biggest stars decides to sit out the rest of the racing season, you know it’s got to be serious. Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. recently announced that he will not be racing for the rest of 2016 because of a serious concussion.
Fans of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) were sad to hear that one of the track’s top racers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had suffered a concussion that would end his 2016 season. What looked to be a relatively insignificant accident at the Michigan Speedway earlier this year left Earnhardt with a concussion that seriously affected his ability behind the wheel.
In a press conference on September 4, 2016, Earnhardt said he “had no business” driving a race car in his condition. For the first five weeks of his brain injury was so severe he had difficulty completing even simple tasks. He told fans at the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway:
“I struggled with my eyes for a while and I’m starting to see improvements there which I was thrilled to wake up one day and feel a difference and start to see improvement there. Riding in a car or walking to gain stability is starting to improve, which was a major relief for me because that was probably the most difficult thing to deal with. My balance is miles better than it was when I first went to see [Dr. Micky Collins]. It’s been a good experience and I’m looking forward to getting well and definitely on the right track.”
This isn’t the first time Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a brain injury that affected his ability to drive. In 2012, the driver missed two races because of a concussion suffered from a crash at Kansas Speedway. Six weeks later, he was hit again at Talladega Superspeedway and suffered similar symptoms. Earnhardt expected this time to be the same:
“When we first went to see Micky I anticipated the experience to be similar to what I had in the past. That we would work on getting better and it would happen in a relatively short period of time and I would drive a car before the end of the season. As we continued to get evaluated we realized it is going to be a bit more of a process.
A decade earlier, in 2002, it turned out that Dale Earnhardt Jr. had finished several races that season even after sustaining a brain injury.
Concussion injuries are no small problem. NASCAR takes them seriously, requiring post-collision TBI screenings. In 2014, the sports agency also established mandatory baseline concussion testing for all its drivers. NASCAR knows that early detection is key to protecting its drivers from long-term, serious disability.
David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He helps TBI victims get their expenses paid. If you have suffered a brain injury, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.
Image Source: Sarah Stierch via wikipedia (modified for size)