Last season Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion that made him miss two races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase, afterwards, some drivers came out to say they had suffered concussions as well throughout different parts of their racing career and it is expected other drivers have kept their concussions secret. Jeff Gordon himself said if the championship was on the line – that he would not mention having a concussion.
Now NASCAR is looking into making concussion testing a mandatory part of the pre-season physical in an effort to diagnose a drivers ability to function in the race car.
Vice president of race operations Steve O’Donnell told ESPN.com on Thursday that drivers are being encouraged to take the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) baseline test on a voluntary basis this year with plans to become mandatory by next season.
O’Donnell said the decision to move forward with baseline testing came after NASCAR officials recently met with the organization’s panel of doctors and neurologists.
“The decision was made that they thought we should look into this, but we really needed to educate the driver first, how decisions are made, that it’s not just made on the ImPACT test [that determines if a driver should be parked],” O’Donnell said. “We’re encouraging everyone to do one this year, most likely to be required prior to 2014.”
The ImPACT test provides a baseline for neurologists to determine brain function prior to a concussion. It is then measured against another test after a wreck or head injury to determine whether a concussion has occurred and its severity.