CONCUSSIONS IN NASCAR

Concussions have been talked about in depth recently in the sports world. Thousands of players are suing the NFL because of the way it handled concussions in the past. Concussions may have led to two suicides this year of former NFL players Ray Easterling and Junior Seau who took their lives possibly because of the long term effects of suffering from multiple concussions. But it was not until a few weeks ago that concussions made headlines in another sport, NASCAR. This is when the sport’s biggest superstar, Dale Earnhardt Jr., announced that he would be sitting out two races because of a concussion that he sustained in a crash at Talladega Superspeedway on October 7. By doing this, he was essentially giving up any chance at winning the championship this year. But unlike the NFL, NASCAR has no way of testing for concussions or any protocol for sitting drivers if they have a concussion. Dale Jr. was sat down by his doctor because he went to him with headaches. Would other drivers that are in the Chase for a championship suffering from the same thing sit and lose any hope of winning? Two of the most popular drivers, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon, say that they would not sit. “If I was in my position, I’d probably hide it,” said Denny Hamlin, who is fifth in the standings, 49 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. “I’d race on, or at worst, I’d run a lap, get the points, get out and let someone else do it.” “Honestly, I hate to say this, but no, I wouldn’t (see a doctor),” Gordon said. “If I have a shot at the championship, there are two races to go, my head is hurting, and I just came through a wreck, and I am feeling signs of it, but I’m still leading the points, or second in the points, I’m not going to say anything. I’m sorry.” This may cause NASCAR to look at the way, or lack of a way, they handle concussions. There could be baseline testing done on each driver and the same test administered after a crash to see if the driver sustained any head trauma during the wreck. You can read about the specifics of baseline testing here: http://www.sportsconcussions.org/ibaseline/2011-07-08-05-45-58/testing-baseline. To implement such procedures would not only help with the safety of the injured driver, but the safety of all drivers on the track. I know if I was out there racing at speeds over 200 mph, the last thing I would want is the driver beside or in front of me getting dizzy and wrecking other cars because he is impaired by the effects of a concussion. DH