After Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in the wreck that knocked him out of Sunday’s Daytona 500, he did something unusual – but also something that has and will continue to become more normal for him as time goes on.
In laymen’s terms, Earnhardt gave himself an “eye test” to make sure he did not suffer any type of concussion-like symptoms from the impact.
During his weekly online podcast Monday, titled “Moving on after up ‘n down Speedweeks,” Earnhardt was very illustrative and candid about how he self-tested and self-diagnosed himself to make sure he wasn’t in any type of danger while he awaited rescue workers to get to him.
What Earnhardt said is fascinating in its context and content:
“We got a lot of questions and conversation about doing an eye test inside the car. So after the accident, we were sitting on the front straightaway, we got a red flag, so I decided to do a little self-diagnosing of my head.
“Obviously, going through everything we went through last year, I’m pretty self-aware and I understand there are a few things I can do. I’ve done a lot of training and rehab on my own over the last six months to get this concussion cleared up. So I understand a lot of things I can do to understand where I’m at, how healthy I am and whether I have any issues.
“One of those is a very simple eye test. Basically, you take the point of your finger, the end of your finger, or a dot on a piece of paper and bring it slowly close, kind of in-between your eyes to your nose. That dot or whatever the target is you’re looking at, you need to be able to hold that dot as one.
“What I mean is that as you get closer to your nose, eventually your eyes are going to go bonkers and it’s going to split and you’re going to see two dots. That needs to happen right off the tip of your nose, real close within an inch or so.
“If you have a head injury or any type of concussion, that object will split much further out, six inches or a foot out. That’s when you know you’ve got a little bit of an event going on in your head, however you want to describe it.”
Earnhardt first started using the self-test in December when he tested at Darlington Speedway to get medical clearance to return to driving a race car.
“It’s just a real quick, simple self-test that a doctor can use. When we were at Darlington testing for the clearance in December, (Dr. Jerry Petty) was there. Every time I got in the car, that was the first thing he did, over and over and over. When you go to Dr. Petty and say you think you have a concussion, that’s the first thing he’s going to do.
“I obviously brought a lot of attention to myself unnecessarily and I regret that, but I’m sitting there under the red flag and it’s eating me alive. A lot of the symptoms that I’ve had in concussions in the past, I don’t feel when I’m inside in the car, sitting down. Your heart is thumping, racing.
“That’s the only thing I could do to go okay, this looks normal, this feels normal. I should have waited until I got out of the car and not drawn so much attention to myself, but I couldn’t wait under the red flag and I wanted to know.”