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Volume 24 No. 156
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Dale Earnhardt Jr. To Miss Next Two Races After Suffering Concussion

Hendrick Motorsports announced this morning that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup races this Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and next Sunday at Kansas Speedway after being diagnosed with a concussion following a crash last week at Talladega Superspeedway. Regan Smith will be the team’s substitute driver at both of the races (Hendrick Motorsports). Earnhardt at a press conference today said the concussions symptoms began after a testing session in Kansas last month where he crashed. He said, “You know your body and you know how your mind works, and I knew something was just not quite right. But I decided to just push through and work through it.” Earnhardt said he was "still having some headaches" yesterday stemming from Sunday's crash. He said, "That was really the only symptom that I was having ... so I took it upon myself to contact my sister, we talked about seeing a neurosurgeon. And we ended up getting steered toward Dr. Petty.” After several tests and an MRI, “everything looked good there but I was really honest" with Dr. Jerry Petty. Because of that, Petty "couldn’t clear" Earnhardt to race. Earnhardt noted he “got a lot of support" from his team and also said he “regrets not seeing anybody” after his wreck in Kansas. Hendrick Motorsports Owner Rick Hendrick said, "One thing everybody admires about Dale is how honest and upfront he is. ... I think a lot of guys would try to play hurt.” Hendrick said, “I always want to be on the side of safety” (Speed TV, 10/11).

END OF HIS CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES: The AP’s Jenna Fryer notes Earnhardt sitting out the two races ends “the championship chances of NASCAR's most popular driver.” He was able to “drive his car away from the accident" at Talladega, thus was “not required to go to the care center for an examination at the time.” NASCAR in '02 strengthened its commitment “to keeping drivers with concussions off the track ... in part because Earnhardt admitted he was unable to fully concentrate or communicate with his crew chief after an accident at California.” Notably, Nationwide Series driver Eric McClure “missed six weeks this season with lingering effects of a concussion suffered at Talladega” (AP, 10/11). ESPN's Ricky Craven said depending on Earnhardt's symptoms, "I’m not sure two weeks is enough." Craven: "If you think about risk versus reward, it makes more sense to just shut it down at this point and extend the off-season” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 10/11).

NOT INFLUENCED BY NFL: Earnhardt said news about concussions in the NFL and other sports “didn’t play into it a whole lot.” Earnhardt: "I want to live a healthy life so I’m making sure I’m doing the right thing and that’s all I felt like I was doing here." ESPN’s Marty Smith said it was a "doctor’s decision” for Earnhardt not to race the next two weeks. Smith said, “This is huge for a driver to get out of the seat. We see all the time how difficult it is for athletes to make these types of decisions. It’s a landmark decision for Dale to do this. I am always taken aback when I speak with race car drivers on a personal level how scared they are that someone is going to take their job” ("SportsCenter,” ESPN, 10/11).

SHOULD GRIFFIN PLAY? Redskins QB Robert Griffin III suffered a concussion in last week’s game against the Falcons, and questions persist over whether he should play in Sunday’s game against the Vikings if he is cleared by doctors. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said, “Given what the NFL’s No. 1 issue is these days -- player safety, player health -- I just think, you know what, you don’t have to put him back out there” (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/10). Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio said as long as Griffin “doesn’t say anything about any symptoms that may be lingering, the doctors won’t know that there are any lingering symptoms.” Florio: “So the question becomes if he does feel any symptoms, will he say anything about it?” (“Pro Football Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 10/10). ESPN’s Michael Smith: “We know that the teams and their employed doctors are not going to put the interests of the players ahead of that of the team. The only way this culture is going to change is if players have the courage to (hold themselves out of games).” ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was held out of a game by doctors because of a concussion and “was then criticized by his teammates after the game for not playing. So that’s the culture we’re still dealing with in the NFL” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/10). ESPN’s Hugh Douglas said Griffin “should say something, but he can’t say something because he’s not in that position.” Douglas: “The guy who should keep him out of the game is his coach.” Douglas said the NFL “is really being a hypocrite when they talk about head injuries” because Griffin should not play this week but “there’s so much pressure to play in the NFL” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 10/10).