| March 18, 2018

Column: Racing Ramifications

October 6, 2016

Concussions continue to hinder athletes. The latest injury comes from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who hasn’t been cleared to play Monday against Tampa Bay.

Newton joins a long list of athletes who experienced concussions. Football is notorious for concussions. Newton’s situation made me wonder if athletes should sit out or retire after multiple concussions.

Some athletes continue to play, while others are forced into retirement.

In the last few months, I’ve thought maybe Dale Earnhardt, Jr. should retire.

It’s a nightmare NASCAR fans don’t want to see as the sport loses marketable drivers.

Looking back, I never would have thought a slap in the wall in Michigan, June 12 would be a concern.

Earnhardt, Jr. ran three races after the crash until doctors told him he’s not medically cleared to race due to concussion-like symptoms.

This was Earnhardt, Jr.’s fourth concussion. The sport’s most popular driver hasn’t strapped in since July.

Earnhardt, Jr.’s first concussion was in April 2002. He crashed head-on into a wall in Fontana, California. Earnhardt, Jr. wasn’t aware of his concussion and continued to race until September.

A year later, he had another concussion. He ran the next week at Talladega, finishing second.

Earnhardt, Jr. didn’t miss a Sprint Cup race until 2012, when he sat out two races after accidents in Kansas and Talladega.

Three years ago, drivers were mandated to undergo neurocognitive exams to prevent other serious head injuries. This was NASCAR’s wisest move. The Sprint Cup Series hasn’t had a fatality in 15 years when Earnhardt, Jr.’s father died in the Daytona 500. I hope the Cup stays a safe event. Formula One and IndyCar Series drivers have died from head injuries the last two years, even with rules against concussed drivers competing.

Shortly after Earnhardt, Jr.’s concussion diagnosis July 14, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver John Wes Townley got a concussion and missed a race.

That’s two notable concussions with a month of racing left.

NASCAR must stick to concussion protocol to avoid losing a driver.

It hurts to see Earnhardt, Jr., who is knowledgeable and passionate about this sport, sit on the sidelines.

At least he is doing the right thing by taking the time to be evaluated, instead of rushing back to his car.

NASCAR is doing the right thing with concussion rules.

I can’t see Earnhardt, Jr. retiring because of this concussion. I won’t  be surprised if he races at next year’s Daytona 500.

Luis Torres can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @TheLTFiles

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