What Can We Learn From Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Experience With Concussions?

Dale Earnhardt returned to his race car last weekend after spending several weeks recovering from two traumatic brain injuries. He has been very open about his experiences with them and because of that we can take away several key points…..Image

1. Every Concussion is Different!

“The two concussions were completely different as far as where my brain was injured,” he said. “The one at Talladega mixed up a lot of anxiety and emotional stuff. The symptoms were more anxiety-driven. If I got into a busy situation, I’d get a lot of anxiety.”

2. Healing from a concussion is hard!

“I was just really frustrated and having a lot of anxiety of, ‘Man, how long is this going to last? Is this ever going to be right again? I had no answers,” he said. “These guys are professionals, and I asked everything I wanted to know, and we went through all these drills and exercises, and they ran me ragged, and it was a fun day.

3. Professionals help with the healing!

“I felt I understood what I was dealing with and the process was and felt a lot better. If I ever got any doubts, I’d call Micky up and we’d talk about it for an hour, and that was the best therapy was understanding what was going on. The regular symptoms of being foggy and having headaches, those were prevalent in first concussion, not so much in (the second) one.

4. Concussions need to be taken seriously!

“It changed the way I feel about it to where if I know I’ve suffered another concussion or if I have symptoms after an accident, I’m definitely going to be a lot more responsible about it,” Earnhardt said before practicing his No. 88 Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway. “I can understand peoples’ opinions that they would try to push through it or they would ignore it to stay in the car because I did the same thing.

“Some concussions are really bad, and I don’t care how tough you think you are. When your mind’s not working the way it’s supposed to, it scares the (crap) out of you. You’re not going to think about race cars, about trophies, about your job. You’re going to think about what I have to do to get my brain working the way it was before. That’s going to jump right to the top of the priority list. I definitely take it more seriously now after everything I’ve learned.

You can find the full article about Earnhardt’s concussion experience here:

http://www.indystar.com/usatoday/article/1660409&usatref=sportsmod?odyssey=mod|newswell|featuredtext|Indianapolis%20Sports|p

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Helping Our Athlete’s Make the Right Decision to Sit It Out!

There is no doubt about it whether it is football, soccer, wrestling, cheerleading, tennis or race cars, athletes love their sport. Therefore, the last thing they want to do is sit out of a game, match, competition, or race.  It is a hard but necessary step in recovering from a concussion and preventing second-impact syndrome.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is learning this first hand. In late August he had his 1st concussion from a crash on a raceway in Kansas. He thought he was okay. He felt good, but on October 7th, he sustained another concussion from another, less severe crash. His symptoms returned. He saw his doctor for a headache that would not go away. Dr. Perry made the right decision and would not allow him to race last weekend or in the race this weekend either. Perry wanted Earnhardt, Jr. to be evaluted by professionals, and Earnhardt, Jr. is lucky to have such a proactive team. They spent Tuesday at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program consulting with Dr. Micky Collins, a concussion specialist, formulating a return to play that included ImPACT testing before returning to the raceway.

 

Earnhardt talks about needing someone else (his doctors) to make the decision for him not to race because the love of racing would keep him behind the wheel even though he knows that concussions are serious.  Our athletes are no different. As parents and coaches, we owe it to our athletes to be that “voice of reason” when we suspect a concussion. From the moment we even think our athlete has sustained a concussion, they must SIT IT OUT!  Even though it is hard, we must be proactive in protecting our brain…we only have one for life.

The “Mild” Concussion Misnomer

On Sunday, Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin, III was knocked out. According to his coach, Mike Shanahan, he received a mild concussion. When asked about RGIII, Shanahan said the following – “He wasn’t sure what quarter it was in the third quarter. So at that time, when he wasn’t really sure what the score was, what the quarter was, we knew he had a mild concussion — at least according to the doctors,”

 

This leads us to the question – is it possible to get a “mild” concussion?

And the resounding answer is NO!

According to the CDC a concussion is a brain injury, and ALL are serious.

When talking about concussions, the word mild can be used to describe the symptoms. Symptoms can be mild to severe.  You will also hear the word mild to describe the type of brain injury. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, but do not confuse this with having a “mild” concussion. Again all concussions are serious and need to be treated that way.