Dale Earnhardt Jr. experienced a highly successful professional driving career. His days on the race track featured several scary moments that significantly impacted his life. These situations led Earnhardt Jr. down a path that he hopes will help improve the safety of NASCAR.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s long history of concussions
Dale Earnhardt Jr. strung together a highly successful racing career that spanned nearly two decades.
However, it came to a close in 2016 due to Earnhardt Jr.’s lingering head injury symptoms due to the multiple concussions he suffered. The 46-year-old has voiced that he dealt with more than 20 concussions throughout his professional driving career.
Many of which he brushed off in his 20s, but concussion-like symptoms hit him hard in 2016. These issues significantly impacted him to the point where he couldn’t go about any everyday life routines, such as driving to the store without the need of assistance.
The symptoms eventually dwindled, but it did help push him to make a massive life-changing decision.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s decision could improve safety of NASCAR
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s professional driving career came to a close in 2016 as he stepped into retirement.
The decision came after multiple incidents dealing with concussions and head injuries. All that guided him down the path toward declaring in August 2016 that he was going to donate his brain to science for medical research. (H/T Bob Pockrass of ESPN)
“I was a donor already for many years…and so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do for me,” Earnhardt said Friday of his decision. “Anything I can do to help others. Hopefully the science has advanced far beyond what it is today and they don’t need it.”
Earnhardt’s source of inspiration came after he saw a story that three former Raiders players pledged to donate their brains in honor of former NFL quarterback Ken Stabler. Following Stabler’s death, it was revealed that he was dealing with Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). His decision also came in wake of seeing former U.S. soccer star Brandi Chastain also going that route.
“I just thought that was amazing that those guys did it in honor of their teammate, and I read where Brandi had done that maybe a month ago,” Earnhardt said. “That was really inspiring. … I didn’t expect it to turn into the story it did, but if by all means, if it raises more awareness and inspires people to donate their brains and pledge their brains — they don’t need just athletes. They need everybody.
“I’m going to give up all the organs that are worth anything when it’s over with. So they can have it all.”
Earnhardt spoke to those associated with the Concussion Legacy Foundation that is partnered with Boston University. The choice to go down that route speaks to his character and mindfulness to help others avoid those issues he experienced.
Bigger picture in mind
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s decision to go that route speaks more extensively to the bigger picture around NASCAR.
Earnhardt Jr. knows the ins and outs of the industry from the driver’s perspective. He holds a clear understanding of how the drivers have felt about the situation concerning head injuries for many years.
Since his retirement, the 46-year-old has opened up further about his dealings with concussions and various head injury symptoms. Earnhardt Jr. initially held a reluctance to discuss his physical problems that came about from the crashes he has been a part of in his 19-year racing career.
He has voiced that hesitance and fear toward sharing that information is something that many other current and former drivers likely feel. Beyond that, Earnhardt Jr.’s commitment to this effort could help forever change the sport for the better.