News & Media

Earnhardt Jr. visits concussion expert in Pittsburgh

October 16, 2012, David Caraviello,

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s treatment for concussion symptoms led him to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, where NASCAR's most popular driver met with a concussion expert at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Junior's head injury

Three days after the Talladega wreck, Dale Earnhardt Jr. went to see a neurologist, who diagnosed him with a concussion.

Earnhardt missed last weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and will also skip this weekend's event at Kansas Speedway, as he deals with the effects of two concussions suffered six weeks apart, the latter sustained Oct. 7 in a crash on the final lap at Talladega. Earnhardt visited the UMPC Sports Concussion Program on Tuesday with Dr. Jerry Petty, the Charlotte-based neurosurgeon who is overseeing his treatment. They visited with Dr. Michael "Micky" Collins, director of the program, as part of a rehabilitation plan put until place by Petty last week.

Earnhardt revealed last Thursday that he had suffered a concussion in a crash while tire testing at Kansas on Aug. 29. He admitted to racing the next few weeks with some lingering effects, but said any symptoms had cleared before the race at Talladega -- where he felt vertigo when his car was spun in the final-lap accident, and began to suffer from headaches that led him to consult with a physician.

Collins is one of the nation's leading experts in the field of concussion treatment and rehabilitation. He and Dr. Mark Lovell developed the ImPACT test, which is the most widely-used concussion evaluation tool. The diagnostic test is used by many National Football League teams, all franchises in the National Hockey League, and several racing organizations to provide baseline testing and potential diagnosis for athletes.

Earnhardt also sustained a concussion in a crash at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California in 2002. Athletes who have suffered a concussion are more susceptible to suffering others, and the cumulative effect of those minor brain traumas can increase significantly if several are suffered within a short period of time.

While in Pittsburgh, Earnhardt also stopped in to have lunch with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. According to a local newspaper reporter, head coach Mike Tomlin sought out the driver to shake hands.