Those involved in all professional sports and high-risk activities have become more and more aware of traumatic brain injuries over the past few years. Medical research into the injury has suggested that head trauma leads to far more long-term damage than once thought. This new information must be taken into account by many different organizers, participants, and administrators of these activities to ensure that risks are minimized.
The Brattleboro Reformer posted a story this week on efforts by NASCAR-the most popular auto racing league in the country-to protect drivers. Of course, our Chicago brain injury lawyers appreciate that risk of head trauma is particularly high for these athletes, because auto accidents are the single most common way that community members suffer these injuries outside of the sports and entertainment context. However, the new findings into the long-term consequences of even minor head trauma suggests that officials in all sports, including NASCAR, need to pay close attention to the way that injuries can occur slowly over the course of a career.
In the Reformer story, well-known auto racer Michael Waltrip explains that in his over 30 year career in the sport he suffered well over ten concussions-perhaps many more. He discussed how sport officials assumed that things were safe in the past, even though they weren’t, noting “We thought we had it figured out. I raced all the way through 2001 when people were getting killed. And all through that time, I was hitting my head and knocking myself out and getting concussions and going to the hospital. And I don’t know what the means to me in ten years, but I know it’s a concern.” He also admitted that many drivers fail to receive the attention they need after a hard crash. This was particularly true in the past when mandatory medical check-ups did not exist.
Many NASCAR observers explain that it took the 2001 death of racing legend Dale Earnhardt to truly shake the industry into doing much more to prevent head injuries. Earnhardt died after a last lap crash in the biggest race of the year for the sport-the Daytona 500. Many neck guards and other safety features were installed after that tragedy to keep drivers safe from particularly strong and potentially deadly trauma during accidents.
However, our each brain injury lawyer can explain that most attention these days is not on preventing one-time blows but the consequences of repeated concussions and other head trauma. Many older, former athletes are experienced a range of neurological issues as a result of the knocks that they took over the course of their career.
NASCAR officials say they are aware of the concerns and have worked hard to prevent these injuries in current athletes. According to the report, there have been at least 29 concussions identified in the sport’s three top series in the last 8 years-with only 11 of those happening in the last five years. Officials believe that the decrease in these injuries is due in large part to mandatory neck safety devices, new impact-absorbing barriers on track walls, and completely redesigned cars that are built to reduce injury.
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