Following a high profile concussion in the sport last season, NASCAR is taking a page from other professional sports leagues and mandating baseline concussion testing beginning next season.
Baseline tests are used so that if an athlete gets injured later in the season, there is a previous test to compare to. In this case, if a racer gets into a wreck, they can be tested for a brain injury before they race again. It is one of many tools and factors used to diagnose and treat concussions.
In a statement Thursday, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR vice president of racing operations said, “NASCAR made this decision because we think it is important to drivers’ health for doctors to have the best information and tools available in evaluating injuries.”
“Before announcing this rule, we provided drivers concussion and baseline testing education and created opportunities for them to ask any questions they may have to a top neurosurgeon that specializes in traumatic brain injuries. Also, remember that ImPACT tests are not new to our sport and have been used for treatment through the years.”
Last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought the debate about concussions to racing as he sat out two races with a concussion. He had suffered two concussions within six weeks.
In February Earnhardt publicly endorsed mandating baseline testing. He is quoted saying, “It makes perfect sense to make it mandatory. I think it was nice of them to look into ways they could protect us from ourselves really. The test is really simple, and it’s pretty straightforward.”
“When you get into an accident, you can take this test again and find out exactly what is happening to your brain if things don’t feel right,” he said. “This test can pinpoint where in the brain you’re struggling, what kind of injury you have, what kind of things you can do to rehab and to recover. It helped me a lot.”