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DATE News (chronologically)
10/17/12
nascar
Once again NASCAR last to the table on safety

Once again it took losing their biggest star for NASCAR to react
IndyCar, F1 and other series have done concussion baseline testing for years.  They implemented the HANS Device way ahead of NASCAR as well.  It wasn't until the death of Dale Earnhardt and Adam Petty that it finally get mandated. Experts say the HANS Device would have likely saved both drivers.

So here we are again and it wasn't until their biggest star (Dale Jr.) got taken out by a concussion did the giant awaken and say, oh maybe we had better do something about this.

NASCAR is reviewing with its medical experts all aspects of how it deals with concussions, including baseline testing that the IndyCar Series and other contact sports use.

For former Sprint Cup driver Steve Park, it can't come soon enough.

Park suffered a massive brain injury in a 2001 Nationwide Series crash at Darlington. He took the ImPACT baseline test in 2003 on the recommendation of NASCAR physician Dr. Jerry Petty after suffering a second concussion.

Because Park never had a test before that for comparison, there was no way to determine the full extent of his injury. He has wondered for years why NASCAR hasn't made the test a part of its preseason health exam.

"I am a big proponent in NASCAR that the ImPACT test, if it was part of your physical exam as a driver and you had it at the liaison office at every track, if you did get hurt during testing, qualifying or practice you could easily take the test (again) in 20 or 30 minutes and they could have a competent evaluation if you're hurt or not,'' Park told ESPN.com.

The subject of preseason baseline testing surfaced Thursday when Dale Earnhardt Jr. did not get medical clearance to drive in this past Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Sunday's race at Kansas due to multiple concussions suffered over the past six weeks.

NASCAR does not perform baseline testing as a regular part of its preseason physical but plans to consult with its medical staff to see whether it should be added after what has happened to its most popular driver.

"We are always evaluating and reviewing our policies and procedures, especially when it comes to safety,'' NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. "We will continue to work closely and review our policies with the medical experts that advise NASCAR on baseline testing and other medical issues.

"While not mandatory, baseline testing can and has been used and is just one of the many tools a neurologist or neurosurgeon may use as part of a neurological assessment.''

The test gives physicians a starting point to learn if there is a loss of function after a head injury. It enables them to determine if a concussion has occurred and the severity of it.

Earnhardt did not have a baseline test after his Aug. 29 wreck at Kansas that registered 40 G-forces or immediately after his wreck at Talladega Superspeedway that registered 20 G's. Even if he had, there would have been no way to determine the full extent of the concussion because there was no baseline test taken before the injury that resulted in headaches, one of the symptoms of a head injury.

Danica Patrick, making the transition from IndyCar to NASCAR, would be in favor of baseline testing.

"We need to do whatever it takes to know more about injuries for sure,'' she said. "Every other year we did a baseline test (in IndyCar). Then if you had an accident, you took it. We also wore accelerometer ear pieces so they could measure, read and know more about the accident and how hard you hit. Anytime you're doing something to know more is a good thing.

"Yeah, I think it's a good thing.''

One of the arguments against baseline testing is athletes can manipulate the test with slow reaction times. Then, in case of a head injury, they run a lower risk of being parked as Earnhardt was, taking him out of championship contention.

"But here's what I think about that,'' Patrick said. "Your competitiveness comes out in it that you want to do well. That's what I thought, anyway. You can sandbag it for sure. If you do, then you're only cheating yourself.'' In part from ESPN.com

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