It’s not surprising that NASCAR drivers have dealt with concussion-related issues. What is alarming, though, is how often concussions seem to occur.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s extended absence from the sport, as well as his openness about his concussion issues, shook things up quite a bit. Not only did NASCAR implement a new concussion protocol, but other drivers are starting to be more outspoken about their experiences with concussions.
That includes Stewart-Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick, who talked Tuesday at Daytona 500 media day about her own surprising history with concussions.
“I mean yeah I’ve had concussions,” Patrick said to reporters at media day. “Every time you crash you have a concussion — on a varying degree, I’m sure. So when (Earnhardt) said something about having 12 concussions, I was like, ‘Oh I’m sure I’ve had 12 concussions.'”
Barring extra-curricular activity, NASCAR typically doesn’t feature the human-to-human contact that causes concussions in other sports. But the high speeds and risks of crashing make the sport dangerous nonetheless.
“We’re not football players — we don’t get the repeated hits, like in succession, over a short amount of time. But you know it’s rough in the car, and the hits are probably singularly bigger,” Patrick said. “I’m just assuming going 200 mph – 150 mph has gotta be a fairly big hit compared to running.”
Earnhardt’s willingness to take the time necessary time to recover, as well as Carl Edwards’ retirement, seems to have caused other drivers such as Patrick to take concussions more seriously than ever before.
“I think we like to sweep it all under the rug as drivers, like we feel nothing’s wrong, but it’s our life,” Patrick said. ” I love what I do, but I love lots of other things, and I also love life. I’m too young to have it be over.”
As one of the sport’s most popular drivers, it’s a pretty big deal for Patrick to speak so candidly about concussions. It will be interesting to see if other drivers follow suit as the season progresses.
Thumbnail photo via John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports Images