Voices from the Cheapseats · Jeff Meyer · Friday October 19, 2012
Once again, a mere 11 or so years after the first time, an Earnhardt has lit a fire under the assess of the NASCAR brass, forcing them face the pain in the name of safety.
In 2001, it took the tragic death of NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Sr., before NASCAR would mandate simple, existing safety equipment that would have saved his life. Those were the HANS device and SAFER barriers. This time, the son, again NASCAR’s most popular driver, is forcing NASCAR to back peddle when it comes to brain injury testing.
What they are back peddling on specifically is called ImPACT baseline testing. ImPACT stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing and has been used for many years in the IndyCar Series and other contact sports.
Current and former drivers like Danica Patrick and Steve Park not only favor the testing but also wonder why it is not mandatory. It is, after all, a simple test that takes maybe 30 minutes to take the first time and even less should the need arise in the future.
Park, who suffered a nasty brain injury in 2001, never took the test until after suffering a second concussion in 2003…on the advice of none other than, yes, you guessed it, NASCAR physician Dr. Jerry Petty. Of course in Park’s case, there was no way to determine how badly injured he was because the test had been administered after the second injury!
“I am a big proponent in NASCAR that the ImPACT test, if it was part of your physical exam as a driver and you had it at the liaison office at every track, if you did get hurt during testing, qualifying or practice you could easily take the test (again) in 20 or 30 minutes and they could have a competent evaluation if you’re hurt or not,’‘ Park said in a recent interview with ESPN.com.
If something were to happen to Danica Patrick during a NASCAR event there is, at least, a glimmer of hope.
“We need to do whatever it takes to know more about injuries for sure,’‘ she said. “Every other year we did a baseline test (in IndyCar). Then if you had an accident, you took it,” said Patrick.
And what is NASCAR’s position now that Dale Jr., by his absence, has forced them to look at the issue?
“We are always evaluating and reviewing our policies and procedures, especially when it comes to safety,’‘ NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. “We will continue to work closely and review our policies with the medical experts that advise NASCAR on baseline testing and other medical issues. 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.’‘
Gee, remind me never to let anyone in the ivory towers at Daytona, watch over my livestock!
“Hey! Where the hell are my horses!?,” I said, after returning from a trip abroad.
“W-well,” stammered Brian France. “I went out to check on them and they were gone! The barn door was wide open! I don’t know what happened. You will be pleased to notice that I did in fact shut the barn door up tight so now the horses can’t get out again though!”
And then, as if on cue, there was this news flash from USA Today on Thursday afternoon which read in part…
“Championship contender Denny Hamlin said he felt “slightly dizzy” and admitted that he would probably not have gone to the infield care center after a testing crash Thursday at Kansas Speedway had a NASCAR official not suggested he do so. Hamlin crashed his No. 11 Toyota in Turn 1 — the same corner Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit during a tire test on Aug. 29 where he sustained the first of two concussions that is forcing him to miss his second race in a row.” (cont.)
“Hamlin said he clipped the wall with the right rear going 202 mph entering the corner, sending the car down the track. He over-corrected and hit the wall with the right side, destroying the Camry he intended to race Sunday. After seeing the car’s damage, a NASCAR official suggested that Hamlin go to the infield care center. Hamlin could not recall another time he had driven to the garage and a series official suggested he go to the care center.” (cont.)
“Hamlin was asked to return to the infield care center an hour later for a re-evaluation before being cleared to drive. He was cleared after a 10-minute evaluation. Hamlin said he did not think the attention he received after his crash was related to the prominence of concussions after Earnhardt suffered two concussions within six weeks and will miss his second consecutive race. He said it made sense to be evaluated before getting back in a car.” (USA Today)(10-18-2012)
Oh really? Let me point out a couple of contradictions in that one giant paragraph.
‘After seeing the car’s damage, a NASCAR official suggested that Hamlin go to the infield care center. Hamlin could not recall another time he had driven to the garage and a series official suggested he go to the care center.’
OK, so this must be a special occasion. The official thinks it’s pretty serious and Denny thinks it’s out of the ordinary…after all as he said, this situation never came up before.
But wait! Could this scrutiny possibly have ANYTHING to do with the fact that Jr.’s actions have brought on all this attention? Heck no! As you read on, you are assured of that!
‘Hamlin said he did not think the attention he received after his crash was related to the prominence of concussions after Earnhardt suffered two concussions within six weeks and will miss his second consecutive race. He said it made sense to be evaluated before getting back in a car.’
Well now, who is stupider? Denny Hamlin for not believing Jr.’s actions had anything to do with this, or you and me, for possibly believing it!
I can bet you one thing though, had there been a baseline ImPACT test to compare to after Denny’s practice crash, the odds are a million to one that he’d have been diagnosed with a concussion…no matter how badly he may have failed it!
Will NASCAR ever mandate this type of testing? I doubt it. Think about it, what if they had to sit out TWO of the Chase contenders in the name of ‘safety’ during their contrived playoffs! Oh the horror!!
Don’t worry folks, NASCAR would never paint themselves into that type of corner at any cost. Especially for something as mundane as driver safety.
Stay off the wall (but take the test in case you don’t!)
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