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NASCAR Exploring Expanded Concussion Testing Program On Heels Of Earnhardt Injury
Published October 18, 2012
PEER PRESSURE: SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass noted IndyCar drivers must complete the ImPACT test, developed by Univ. of Pittsburgh Medical Center Concussion Program Clinical & Exec Dir Michael Collins, "before they compete in the series and then at least once every two years." IndyCar said that the 20-minute test "measures a range of neurocognitive functions, including memory, reaction time, attention span, and other cognitive abilities." If a driver suffers a head injury, doctors "perform the test again to determine the severity." NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick said that Richard Childress Racing "started having its drivers take a baseline test a couple of years ago." Harvick: "It's just a matter of what the team does, how it's supposed to be structured, how far you want to take it. It's a fine balance. I think, obviously, when Dale Jr. has a situation like this, everybody's looking at it a little bit differently than they have in the past.” Pockrass wrote some drivers "believe such testing should be left up to the individual drivers and teams and not required by NASCAR." After Harvick made his statement, driver Brad Keselowski tweeted, “Good, let the teams handle this. The sport is plenty regulated as is.” IndyCar Medical Services Dir Mike Olinger said that while baseline testing is regulated in the series, "it's not like it can be done weekly." Olinger added that the series "must rely on drivers to let IndyCar officials know if they're suffering symptoms." Pockrass noted IndyCar "also uses the NFL Sideline Concussion Assessment Tool, a cognitive test that takes up to eight minutes" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/17).
TALKING POINTS: ESPN.com's Ed Hinton wrote while NFL QBs "aren't required to play seriously hurt," NASCAR drivers "are, if they want to contend for the Cup." Hinton: "They shouldn't be." NASCAR, "now more than ever, is clearly a team sport." Given that, "why not allow coach Steve Letarte to put in backup quarterback [Regan] Smith, and still collect points for the team that essentially is known by one name, 'Dale Earnhardt Jr.?'" NASCAR VP/Competition Robin Pemberton said, "When a driver is out, the team does continue to get points toward the championship." But Hinton wrote Pemberton's comments were said with "a bit of artful omission," as he "wasn't referring to 'the' championship that we all think of as THE championship." Pemberton: "That's why there's two separate point systems, one for the driver and one for the team itself" (ESPN.com, 10/17).