The most famous concussion victim in auto racing last season was Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Sprint Cup series’ popular driver sustained two concussions within three weeks last fall and it cause him to miss most of the Chase for the Cup.
With the 2013 NASCAR season starting next month, Earnhardt’s health is still in question. And his head injuries, which were not known he until he came forward, exposed a large hole in NASCAR’s concussion policies.
The Sporting News wrote this week from the annual media tour that NASCAR still doesn’t have a conclusive concussion policy, according to NASCAR senior VP Steve O’Donnell.
NASCAR President Mike Helton said Tuesday that NASCAR is still evaluating its procedures.
?Through that experience that Dale went through, we also ourselves had a real-time working model to go look through, and the different steps that Dr. (Jerry) Petty and his organization took Dale through gave us the ability to see things used firsthand,? Helton said.
?Through those experiences, we’ve learned, and I think in ’13 our goal is to explain more to drivers what’s out there in regards to advance information, in regards to elements that can be used by them to carry the load from there on in as far as responsibility is concerned.?
The Sporting News said NASCAR is likely to add baseline testing for all drivers. They might turn to Dr. Michael Collins, the concussion expert from UPMC. He developed the baseline testing for the IndyCar series.
If a driver suffers a head injury, doctors perform the test again to determine the severity and whether a driver can race again. NASCAR does no such testing.
?We learned a lot going through it and we?ve had contact and dialogue (with our drivers) throughout the years, particularly as it has involved baseline testing,? O?Donnell said.
?What Mike was referring to was educating our drivers on what?s available out there and taking them through the possibilities and then looking ahead to 2014 and some programs that we might want to put in place.?
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor