Yesterday was the start of the NASCAR season with the Daytona 500, but a huge crash Saturday on the same track in Daytona which injured over 25 fans has the sport rethinking their safety restrictions. After an attempt to block a pass, several drivers were involved in a large crash which sent a car airborne and threw a tire and parts of the car’s engine into the stands.
The crash didn’t stop the Daytona 500 from occurring as planned, but it is a new concern for a sport already fighting to improve the safety of all involved. It is hard to tell what types of safety measures will be put in place to prevent sad events like this from happening again. However, it is already easy to see how NASCAR is making moves to slow another safety concern: brain injuries.
By the 2014 season, NASCAR is expected to require all drivers to undergo baseline concussion testing for better concussion evaluation in the event a driver is suspected of being injured. Though it isn’t in the rule book yet, NASCAR has even strongly encourage drivers to endure a test before the race yesterday.
Steve O’Donnell, senior vice president of racing operations for NASCAR, told the Chicago Tribune, “We have encouraged them all to get that, with the emphasis that in 2014 that almost likely will be mandated for all of them.”
The ImPACT baseline testing suggested by NASCAR is already fairly standard for many other professional sports leagues, including the NFL. The computerized testing consists of a series of quick quizzes involving words, colors, and pictures, and afterwords gives a score showing the chance that person has received a TBI.
Concussions aren’t shocking for racing, but recent events where Dale Earnhardt Jr. ignored a brain injury and in turn received a second TBI in a race soon after. He had to be pulled from the next two races, but there is concern about Earnhardt Jr.’s decision to “shake off” the concussion and therefore put himself at dramatically heightened risk for serious brain damage.
After his ordeal, Dale Earnhardt Jr. strongly supports mandating use of the ImPACT test. “Yeah, it makes perfect sense to make it mandatory,” Earnhardt said. “It was nice of them to look into ways they could protect us from ourselves really.”