America has a deep love-hate relationship with NASCAR racing. Though viewership has been declining in recent years, it is still one of America’s favorite sports. This is especially true in the American South, where races at the Daytona Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway still draw sellout crowds every year. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest draws of NASCAR races are the wrecks, the same way big hits are the most popular football highlights.
With wrecks and the general nature of driving at 200 miles per hour for hours on end, NASCAR drivers hurt after races. At the very least, drivers are sore. But, there are much greater risks, as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. recently experienced. He will be out at least one race after suffering a concussion in his car. However, this is not the first time he has suffered a traumatic brain injury on the track, nor is he the only one. And Earnhardt is taking this time to truly speak out to raise awareness for this issue.
In the past decade, NASCAR has changed its points system to reward drivers for just starting a race. That means if drivers get injured, they can’t afford to take time off the track. Earnhardt, who has been the most popular driver for 10 years running, fell victim to this line of thinking. He denied for a long time that he ever suffered a concussion so he could stay in the chase for the championship.
However, in 2012, he suffered two concussions in a six-week span and had to take a break from racing. He was cleared to return, but because Earnhardt himself felt he wasn’t healthy, he took himself off the circuit. After those injuries, he began dedicating time to studying brain injuries, especially in his fellow NASCAR drivers. He has even said he will dedicate his brain to science. He took a stand for brain injury victims, and NASCAR took a notice.
It could have been expected that Earnhardt would have been mocked for sitting out two races after his concussions. However, the exact opposite happened. Drivers and executives alike praised him for his decision to worry about his health over points. He also knew driving in his condition would be highly dangerous for his fellow drivers, as symptoms of concussions include dizziness, fatigue and delayed reaction times.
NASCAR took drastic steps after Earnhardt’s decision to sit out from races. They reformed their concussion protocols, requiring drivers to pass a baseline ImPACT test before they can resume driving after a crash. In addition, the points system was revised. Drivers are now allowed to get a waiver for a race for medical reasons. In essence, missing a race no longer removes them from championship contention.
This not only applied to concussions, but to injuries in general. Drivers were able to take waivers for injuries like broken bones and back issues that would have otherwise been suffered through for the sake of points. Without Earnhardt’s willingness to prioritize his health, NASCAR may have never put the health of drivers first. Though his injuries may force him to retire altogether, Earnhardt will forever be in the annals of NASCAR history not just for his wins, but also for his ability to push the Association in the right direction.
Though you may not have been injured in a car race, a concussion can completely change your life. If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury in San Luis Obispo due to someone else’s actions, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Ernst Law Group today to earn more about your options and how we can help you.