- Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 15:21
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Most of the conversation the past week has been about the announcement that Dale Jr. suffered his second concussion in five weeks in the 25-car accident on the last lap at Talladega. The initial decision was that Dale Jr. would sit out at least the America 500 at Charlotte and this Sunday’s race at Kansas . Last Thursday in Charlotte Dale Earnhardt Jr., team owner Rick Hendrick, and Dr. Jerry Petty met with the media. The following has been excerpted from that press conference.
DR. PETTY: The first thing he had was an impact test, which is a test that we’ve been using more and more with drivers. In other words, his neurological was normal. We wanted to get an MRI scan, and we did an MRI that following morning, a special MRI. I think we had to wait a while to get it because we wanted to get a special method they have of looking for previous injuries and so forth. That was entirely normal. The whole -- that was very encouraging.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think that’s one thing everybody admires about Dale is how honest and up front he is. He cares a lot about the team, his fans, and the sport in general. But when he knew that there was something not right, he went to see Dr. Petty here, and I admire him. I think a lot of guys would try to play hurt, but when the doctor tells you if you get hit again like right away, it could be catastrophic, so I think this deal has worked out extremely well as it could. I mean, we were so happy yesterday that the MRI was completely normal, no damage. We don’t have a problem there. I think the real good news is it has come to light with the NFL, and Dr. Petty handles NFL guys with the Panthers, too, and there’s some things they can do to help it along and protect him, and he was explaining all that. So the good news is it’s -- this is kind of preventative maintenance not to take a chance and there’s no damage.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I would love to race this weekend, and I feel perfectly normal and feel like I could compete if I were allowed to compete this weekend. But I think that the basis of this whole deal is that I’ve had two concussions in the last four to five weeks, and you can’t layer concussions. It gets extremely dangerous. So I really don’t want to -- I think that we could easily have chosen to do that, but I’d like to get back in the car and compete as soon as I can, as soon as the doctors feel like I’m able to do that.
Q. Did it make it even more difficult to make this decision the first time, the second time, and is it frustrating?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It’s frustrating. I really didn’t get to make the decision. I left it in the hands of the Docs, and I’m going to do what they tell me to do. But it’s frustrating; I just enjoy driving cars week in and week out.
NASCAR has had only nine cases of drivers reporting concussions over the last five years. Jeff Gordon admitted he probably would not report it if he suspected he had suffered a concussion and risk having sit out some races in the heat of a championship race.
I was watching Wind Tunnel last Sunday night on Speed TV. They were discussing the whole business of concussions and the “Macho” attitude that the typical reaction is to not report a concussion and play hurt. Long time fans will recall Freddie Lorenzen, a top star of NASCAR in the 1960”s. Now 77 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Lorenzen’s daughter sent a text to the show advising that her father’s condition was caused by multiple concussions and the prevailing attitude of the time to “Play through their injuries.”
Perhaps Dale Jr.’s coming forward will begin an era where NASCAR will follow the NFL in taking steps to better monitor and protect drivers from long term damage caused by concussions. If so, Atta boy, Jr. for bringing this important issue to the forefront.