Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that he plans to donate his brain to CTE research, following what other athletes, particularly football players, are doing.
Earnhardt tweeted a story Saturday about three former Oakland Raiders pledging their brains to the Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation, which is focused on the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and others.
In response to a fan’s comment on the story, Earnhardt tweeted “I’m gonna donate mine.’’
Earnhardt missed two races during the 2012 Chase after suffering concussion symptoms. He stated then that he suffered a concussion in a crash during testing at Kansas Speedway that wasn’t diagnosed. He suffered concussion symptoms after a last-lap crash at Talladega Superspeedway six weeks later. He wasn’t required to visit the infield care center after the Talladega incident because he drove away from the crash site.
During a press conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway when Earnhardt announced he would not race because of concussion symptoms, he was asked about if long-term health concerns played a role in visiting a neurologist after his Talladega incident. He said: “I want to live a healthy life, so I’m going to make sure that I’m doing the right thing and that’s all I felt like I was doing here. I think if I give myself time to get healed up, I can race for as long as I want to race, and that’s my objective.”
Earnhardt sparked controversy in 2002 when he said he had driven with a concussion for several races that season. NASCAR changed its policy on clearing drivers after crashes after that.
Studies continue on the impact of repeated blows to the head on athletes. The former Raiders who announced plans to donate their brains made the pledge in honor of Ken Stabler, who was found to have the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is believed to cause debilitating memory or mood problems.
Stabler died of colon cancer in July 2015. On a scale of 1 to 4, Stabler had high Stage 3 CTE, the degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head, according to a New York Times story that cited Boston University researchers.
The story reported that Boston University researchers have found CTE in 90 of the 94 former NFL players it has examined. Only the brains of players who have requested to have their brains studied or whose families asked for the brains to be studied have been examined.
“The research is in its infancy,” Robert Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Boston University School of Medicine, told The New York Times.
Athletes who have pledged their brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation include Eric Winston, former Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman who is president of the NFL Players Association, and soccer player Brandi Chastain, whose penalty kick in 1999 sealed the United States’ World Cup victory. And now Earnhardt.