Rubbin’ n Racin’: NASCAR recognizes the threat of Traumatic Brain Injury

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Dale Jr Crash

NASCAR has long been associated with the sport of stock car racing known as Rubbin’ n Racin’ and frequently involved crashes with drivers back on track at the next opportunity. There’s even a NASCAR legend of a driver who taped his crash-swollen eyes open to race.  Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Vice President of Racing Operations announced that NASCAR drivers will be required to participate in baseline concussion testing starting in 2014. In a recent article in Road and Track was devoted to the plight of retired drivers now living with the effects of multiple concussions and possibly Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Now it seems that NASCAR is realizing that the campaign for driver safety they initiated in 2001 with Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death needs to continue to evolve and address the effects of multiple concussions which some drivers experience. Earnhardt’s death brought about safer helmet and neck restraints known as HANS system to protect from the type of head and neck injury which killed Earnhardt and the installation of collapsible track barriers as well as changes within the driver’s cage.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who has attained NASCAR fame following his father’s death, sat out the end of the 2012 season due to concussions and this past year both Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon participated in concussion evaluations using the imPACT system. NASCAR’s initiative is the right move to help make the sport safer and to respond to the long-term risks associated with multiple concussions. NASCAR is a unique American sport which has its roots in bootlegging. It has always had a rough and tumble approach to motor racing, but clearly the moves towards safety speak to the growing awareness of the long-term implications of brain injury.

Click here to read about NASCAR’s concussion testing initiative.

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