Dale Earnhardt Jr. proud of Luke Kuechly’s retirement decision

Darin Gantt

NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. was willing to walk away from his sport because of his own fear of concussions.

So seeing Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly retire at the peak of his abilities this week wasn’t a sad moment for him as a Carolinian, but a happy one.

“When you get in those types of situations that he was in, you have to make some difficult choices, and I think he made the right one,” Earnhardt said, via David Newton of ESPN.com. “I feel like that a lot of people can learn from that. I think he set an amazing example for a lot of young folks to follow. . . .

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“I’m sure he would have loved to have played longer, but he’s made some amazing, great choices for himself and for his family and his future. And he feels strongly about that decision. All you can do is support that. . . . You have to want to support his decision.”

Kuechly didn’t specifically reference his own three concussions in Tuesday’s surprise retirement announcement, but he did say he wasn’t sure he could “play fast and play physical and play strong” the way he was accustomed to.

Earnhardt stepped away from his family business in 2017, after more than a dozen concussions. Since then, he’s used his platform to talk about the impact of brain injuries. In his book he detailed his own struggles with the effects of concussions, and he announced that after his death, he was donating his brain to CTE research.

“Especially when you see what Luke’s doing and making the choices he’s making, it’s obvious that we’re all a lot better off because of what we’ve learned as a society over the last decade,” Earnhardt said. “It’s good for our competitors today, no matter what sport you’re playing. It’s great for our veterans and guys who have retired because the science is just improving for everybody to diagnose and treat even years and decades after your playing days. You can still improve your quality of life, and that makes me really, really happy.”

And as someone who walked away when he believed he had years of his sport ahead of him, that message carries even more meaning.

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