I had followed Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recovery closely after he sustained a concussion in a June 12, 2016 crash at Michigan International Speedway (which led to his eventual retirement at the end of the 2017 racing season).
Dale Jr. regularly updated his fans about his recovery via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook Live, and I admired his open and honest account of his symptoms and recovery regimens. In one video, he takes you on his journey to the grocery store where he admits that he is suffering from anxiety and overestimation —which are some of the most invisible and misunderstood symptoms of a concussion.
These videos are SO relatable to anyone who has suffered a concussion, and I applaud Dale Jr. for taking the initiative to simultaneously help others who are going through similar experiences while educating the general public about the invisible “stuff” that lurks under the surface, unseen by the outsider. Additionally, NASCAR has been outstanding in their handling of Dale Jr.’s situation. Nothing but positivity and support coming from his team and the NASCAR association. Be sure to check out Part 1 of “Dale Jr.’s Concussion Story” on NBC Sports.
Here are four racing-metaphor related tips:
Take Yourself Out of the Race
Don’t get back into the car again until you’re cleared to race (literally and figuratively). It’s not worth the risk —you’re putting your own life in danger, as well as the other 30+ racers on the track.
Watch for the “Caution Flag”
Listen to your doctor, understand your symptoms, and be diligent about your recovery therapies. Remember that symptoms can vary from person to person, and accident to accident. No two concussions or recoveries are the same.
Celebrate the Victories
Celebrate the small victories in your recovery. Like Dale Jr.’s grocery store outing, it’s the little things that make us aware of the symptoms and keeps us moving forward in our recoveries. Sure, there will be setbacks and bad days, but always cherish the good days.
Know Your Position
With every sport and activity that we participate in, there is always a chance for concussion. Understanding the risks and being aware of the symptoms is key in getting proper treatment, and getting it as quickly as possible.
What Earnhardt’s public statements say to the world is that “this happened to me,” and “this is how it affected me” — his words help enlighten the public to the possible symptoms anyone with a concussion may display. Knowledge is power, and bring about understanding, patience, and empathy.
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