Most will never know what it’s like to have a concussion. Is it has become big news in football and youth soccer, it is the account of a retired auto racer that has lent a much brighter light on the subject of concussions. If you’ve watched the interviews and read the excerpts from his new book, the story of Dale Earnhardt Jr. has done a great deal to chronicle the effects of a concussion.
Let’s be clear this is not a sponsored post, and yours truly does not make a dime off of talking about his book. A desire to understand drives this fan’s curiosity. I think most of us who are into NASCAR knew why Dale Earnhardt Jr. hung up his helmet, but the statements were vague compared to what we’re learning now. Suffice it to say, if we faced the very real prospect of another head injury, we would have retired too.
Not only is his book, Racing To The Finish: My Story revealing, so are his interviews, like the one he did with Joe Rogan on his podcast. As you listen to Dale Earnhardt Jr. describe the misery, you find yourself thinking you’d walk away from racing too. The riches, the glory, the bragging rights just aren’t worth it. It’s not worth not being yourself anymore. The headaches, the rage, not seeing straight, I think I understand better now why some retired football players have taken their lives. You can’t help but wonder that some of the violent behavior we’ve seen and read about isn’t so much from steroid use, but from post-concussion symptoms.
The discussion is very insightful. It’s a cautionary tale to an athlete, a parent of an athlete, a coach, a trainer, a physician. One post I just read delved into the medical response- or lack of it- at that fateful Kansas test where Earnhardt crashed. Yes, it’s been six years, and we know a lot more now than we even did then, but what you learn in sports is sometimes the athlete and his friends and his loved ones. At the end of the day, the NFL, NASCAR, they’re industries. I’m not sure I would want to count on them to look out for me.
No, this is not an anti-racing or anti-sports rant. Athletes know and accept the risk. We’re just now really beginning to learn about concussions and brain injuries. As we consider the story of Dale Earnhardt Jr., we now understand in a much greater way what events paved the way to the end of his racing career.
He may not have accomplished what his dad did. He may not necessarily be what some of his admirers and critics wanted him to be. What Dale Earnhardt Jr. is, and I think you’ll agree, is nothing less than unflinchingly honest about who he is and what his story was.