NASCAR Shines a Light on Traumatic Brain Injuries

NASCAR superstar Danica Patrick recently acknowledged the risks of getting behind the wheel and traveling at incredible rates of speed on a race track. At media day for the Daytona 500, Patrick admitted that she believes she’s suffered from at least a dozen concussions in her racing career. Estimated, of course, because she was likely never properly diagnosed for all of them.

“I think that we’d like to sweep it all under the rug as drivers like we feel fine and nothing is wrong,” Patrick said. “But it’s our life. If there was someone that told me or, I would hope any other driver, ‘If you have another wreck, you could have a serious problem,’ then they would [choose to] be out.”

Beloved racer Dale Earnhardt, Jr. missed the final 18 races of the 2016 NASCAR season because of his latest concussion. His absence is obvious and sends a big message that Patrick echoes: “I’ve had concussions. Every time you crash, you have a concussion on a varying degree. It makes you pay attention to yourself, and there’s nothing better than having somebody like Dale Jr. going as far as getting out of the car as long as he did, saying, ‘Hey, I have a problem,’ because it makes it more available to everyone else.”

It’s unsettling to think, though, that it takes a celeb in a particular sport to get people to take care of their brain health.

Changes in Concussion Protocol for NASCAR

The dramatic sport is, however, taking traumatic brain injuries seriously, just like the increasingly scrutinized NFL and other professional sports.

NASCAR recently unveiled an expanded concussion protocol in an effort to promote driver safety: “Any driver whose car sustains damage from an accident or contact of any kind and goes behind the pit wall or to the garage is required to visit the Infield Care Center for evaluation.”

It is now required that any drivers involved in a crash at a NASCAR event must undergo the SCAT-3 diagnostic tool to screen for head injuries. On-site neurological consultative support is also supposed to be present at select events. Though the “select” designation is troublesome – why would a crash at one event warrant neurological attention but the crash at another event would not?

TBI in Car Crashes

What NASCAR does do is put a spotlight on the risks associated with car accidents on highways. If it can be assumed that a NASCAR driver automatically suffers a head injury in a crash on the raceway, who’s to say that anyone in a car crash doesn’t suffer the same injury?

So many people involved in auto accidents reject medical care at the scene because they “feel fine.” Unfortunately, the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can sometimes take time to appear. And it may be difficult to distinguish brain injury symptoms from other complications that could easily arise after a major event like a car accident. Easily distracted, difficulty concentrating, inability to focus, and problems with short-term memory are all signs that a head injury may be present.

Diagnosing and proving head injuries, however, are another difficulty. If you are involved in an auto accident and suffer a TBI, contact your personal injury attorney immediately to get support for your case.

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