Beginning next season, NASCAR will require all starting drivers to undergo baseline concussion screening. The tests will, which will evaluate their verbal and memory as well as processing speed and reaction time will then be used to compare results taken after they have been hurt in a crash.
“NASCAR made this decision because we think it is important to drive’s health for doctors to have the best information and tools available in evaluating injuries,” stated Steve O’Donnell, Vice President of racing operations.
The baseline tests will be performed using ImPACT neurocognitive assessment.
It is hoped the new mandate will help to prevent cases such as the one involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. who hid symptoms of a concussion suffered during a hard crash on August 29, 2012 for 6 weeks because he feared not being cleared to race in the Chase for the Cup, only to suffer a second at Talledega shortly afterwards, that forced him out of the next two NASCAR events.
"I remember everything about that accident, everything after that accident," Earnhardt said at the time. "But I knew I didn't feel ... you know your body and how your mind works. I knew something was just not quite right. I decided to push through and work through it. I had concussions before and knew exactly kind of what I was dealing with. I felt pretty good after a week or two, definitely 80%-90% the Chase for the Cup started. By the time I got to Talladega I felt 100%, really good."
Earnhardt Jr., who also admitted to continuing to compete with a concussion back in 2002, isn’t the only the priority of a driver to hide their head injuries, knowing that if they are sidelined, they could end up forfeiting their chance to win a championship, or even lose the chance to high finish the season high in points.
In fact, Jeff Gordon has owned up to the fact that he “wouldn't go to a doctor if I suspected a concussion and had a chance to win the title.”
"We all play a part in this. If I have a shot at the championship and there's two races to go, and my head is hurting and I just came through a wreck and I'm feeling signs of it but I'm still leading the points or am second in points, I'm not going to say anything, “ he stated after Earnhardt Jr.’s confession.