NASCAR may be considering some changes to its current concussion policies for drivers after Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s problems. Officials have already admitted that they are evaluating the possibility of adding baseline testing because NASCAR remains as one of the only motorsport organizations that does not require it. The addition of the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) system would be a positive change.
NASCAR's Stance on Baseline Testing
Baseline testing would require drivers to have an evaluation before the season begins to establish brain function. The results could later be used to assess damage if a head injury occurs by giving the driver a second test. IndyCar already requires this type of testing, but NASCAR has not forced drivers to participate up to this point. NASCAR has mentioned, "While not mandatory, baseline testing can and has been used and is just one of the many tools a neurologist or neurosurgeon may use as part of a neurological assessment."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered two concussions this season and has been forced to miss two races. He still has not been cleared to drive again and continues his recovery process. NASCAR seems to be following his condition very closely and has been posting updates on his treatments. His concussions are rumored to be forcing NASCAR to reevaluate how it handles brain injuries.
The ImPACT Test
NASCAR has not revealed if it will be implementing the ImPACT test as part of its requirements for drivers. Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing is widely used in other sports, so it is unclear why NASCAR has hesitated to encourage drivers to get it in the past. As part of his assessment, Dale Earnhardt Jr. recently had an ImPACT test, but its value is lessened because he did not have baseline testing.
Other motorsports have turned to the ImPACT test as a way to measure cognitive function before a season begins and have it serve as a baseline test. If a driver suffers a head injury, another ImPACT test can be conducted to compare the data and reveal the extent of the damage. Maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s current condition will serve as a wake-up call for NASCAR to change its outdated policies.
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Growing up in Indiana, Lana developed a love for motorsports at an early age. She follows NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One. Follow @Lana_Bandoim on Twitter.