Dale Earnhardt Jr. cleared to race at Martinsville

Doctors say concussion headaches have disappeared since Oct. 12

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012

NASCAR’s most popular driver will return to the race track this weekend.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been sidelined two weeks suffering lingering effects from a pair of concussions, has been medically cleared for competition.

Since being diagnosed with a concussion following the Oct. 7 race at Talladega, Ala. – his second concussion within roughly six weeks – Earnhardt has participated in a rehabilitation program directed by Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty.

Throughout the process, Petty consulted with Dr. Micky Collins, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

“Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him,” Petty said. “He hasn’t had a headache since Oct. 12, and we have not been able to provoke any symptoms since that time.

“I have informed NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports that he is medically cleared for all NASCAR-related activity.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday that Earnhardt had been cleared by doctors to race this weekend at Martinsville, Va.

He later clarified his comments to insist the driver had to complete an on-track test to doctors’ satisfaction.

Earnhardt took part in the test Monday at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., where he ran 123 laps on the half-mile track under the supervision of Petty.

Earnhardt had a final neurological evaluation Tuesday morning in Charlotte.

He said he first felt symptoms nearly seven weeks ago after a hard wreck at Kansas Speedway during a tire test. He was seen by medical staff at the track but did not go into detail about his symptoms.

When Earnhardt still was suffering from headaches following a last-lap wreck Oct. 7 at Talladega, he decided to reach out to his sister, Kelley, and ended up meeting with Petty.

Because of the structure of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Earnhardt can finish no worse than 12th in the standings despite missing the past two races.

The injury snapped his streak of 461 consecutive starts, then the fifth-longest active streak in the Series. He already was more than 50 points out of the lead at the time he got out of the car and realistically out of the title hunt.

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