Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Balance is 'up and down,' dealing with sight issues

From The Marbles
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/88/" data-ylk="slk:Dale Earnhardt Jr.">Dale Earnhardt Jr.</a> has missed three races in 2016 (Getty Images).
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has missed three races in 2016 (Getty Images).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still struggling with his balance and gaze stability at times as he continues his treatment protocol from what his team has termed concussion-like symptoms.

Earnhardt Jr. talked about his treatment at length on his Dirty Mo podcast released Monday after the race at Pocono. It was the third race Junior has missed following concussion concerns. Jeff Gordon, who has filled in for Junior the past two races, finished 27th.

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“There are days when I feel like the balance is better, and then there’s certainly moments when it’s not,” Junior, who is meeting with five doctors Tuesday, said. “I’m sleeping a whole lot more, maybe a lot harder than I did before which is to be expected. My doctors don’t want me sleeping too much which is commonly what you hear.”

Junior also said he felt the balance and vision issues were tied together.

“The balance is up and down. The main issue I have is called ‘gaze stability.’ And that’s the main problem. That is what I believe is tied to the balance, the gaze issue and the problem with my eyes being able to fix on an object at a great distance. And stay there with head movement. That’s the problem. When I move my head I lose the object I’m trying to target.”

The podcast, which has become Junior’s outlet of choice for updates on his condition, is a must-listen as Earnhardt Jr. candidly discusses his symptoms and when they first appeared. Hendrick Motorsports has not announced who would sub for Earnhardt Jr. at Watkins Glen or any future races if needed. An announcement on Sunday’s road course race would likely come Wednesday.

• Junior said doctors believe his violent impact against the backstretch wall at Michigan triggered his problems, though he didn’t feel anything over the Sprint Cup Series’ off weekend or at Sonoma.

• Because of the delay in symptoms – Junior raced at Daytona and Kentucky, where he thought he had a sinus infection – doctors ran bloodwork and even checked for things such as Lyme disease.

“I never had a concussion that came on weeks after the event,” Junior said.

• “This is scary for me because of the way it’s been different,” Junior added. He also said he hadn’t had balance or sight issues with previous concussions and the symptoms came on gradually.

• Junior, 41, said he also feels obligated to be transparent about his symptoms because of the nature of concussions and brain injuries.

“I wouldn’t be like this if I was 25-years-old and trying to get going and thinking about ‘man I want to race for another 25 years.’ I wouldn’t be as transparent,” Junior said. “I’d tell people “I’ve got symptoms, I’ll be back when I’m good. That’s the end of it. But I’ve raced long enough that, and with my history and my concern about my well-being and my future I really don’t have anything to lose by being transparent. I’d love to race more. In my mind my plan is to race more. I have plans to keep going. I’ll worry about that when I’m well. I’ll talk to my doctors and say what do I have left as far as the racing. My doctors are confident that they can make me stronger than I was before this event.”

“As far as long-term man, I’ve got more. I want to race more. I’ve got another year on this deal and me and Rick have sat down and discussed our future and what else we want to accomplish … I’d be frightened to death at 25-years-old going through this. At 41 I think it’s important for me and my piece of mind. And it might help somebody.”

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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