Concussion test not required of track
NASCAR confirms 9 such cases in top 3 series over past 5 years
Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012
CONCORD NASCAR vice president of competition Steve O’Donnell said Thursday that tracking concussions of drivers is a “subjective call.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss Saturday’s Bank of America 500 and next weekend’s race at Kansas after suffering two concussions over the past six weeks. One came in an accident at a test in late August at Kansas Speedway; the second occurred during the last-lap crash Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
It wasn’t until Earnhardt saw a neurosurgeon this week, however, that he was diagnosed. Dr. Jerry Petty, who saw Earnhardt, made the decision to sit him for two races.
Earnhardt, who was checked by medical personnel at both tracks following the wrecks, said Thursday he understood and “trusted” Petty’s decision.
“About 90 percent of a concussion (evaluation) probably depends on individual information,” said Petty. “By and large, it’s a patient … telling you that they’ve had a concussion.”
“It’s very tough,” O’Donnell said of NASCAR’s role. “It’s still a subjective call. It’s something we take a look at week in and week out. So we’ll continue to do that.”
Doctors staffing NASCAR infield care centers can – but are not required to – give drivers a Concussion Reduction Technology test or MRI if a concussion is suspected. Drivers with concussions must receive medical clearance to return to racing.
O’Donnell said there have been nine confirmed concussions in NASCAR’s three top divisions – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck – during the past five years.
Those numbers at least partially can be attributed to several safety improvements in the sport over the past 10 years, including safer seats and mandatory head-and-neck restraints.
“We look at (the cars), candidly, as a rolling laboratory,” said O’Donnell. “Each and every event, we try to learn something new and make them as safe as possible, and I would say our race cars are the safest in the world. I think when you look at the concussion history that we’ve had, that’s less than two per year.
“I don’t want to minimize that because any concussion is a cause for concern, and we’d like that number to be zero.”