Earnhardt not shying away from concussion discussion

Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows the subject of concussions is nothing to be trifled with. So does his wife Amy.

Earnhardt not shying away from concussion discussion
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Tom Brady, New England Patriots Quarterback on the grid
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet pit stop
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Some athletes, however, remain reluctant to discuss them.

On Wednesday, Gisele Bundchen told CBS This Morning’s Charlie Rose that her husband, New England Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady, has suffered multiple concussions, the latest as recently as last year.

Bundchen added, “We don’t talk about it, but he does have concussions.”

That was news to the National Football League, which released a statement on NFL.com saying, “There are no records that indicate that Mr. Brady suffered a head injury or concussion, or exhibited or complained of concussion symptoms."

NASCAR’s most visible and popular athlete, on the other hand, has chosen not to shy away from the spotlight when discussing such an important topic.

Earnhardt, 42, announced last month that 2017 will be his last season as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver. After multiple concussions, including the one that sidelined for 18 races last year, the driver of the No. 88 will move on to other endeavors in and out of the sport.

Being honest

And as is the case with Brady’s wife, Earnhardt’s new bride Amy has been extremely supportive as the driver has gone through often tedious rehabilitation.

“I was reading some stuff on Dan Patrick today with Drew Brees, where he said he wouldn’t tell his wife whether he had a concussion or not, and I don’t think he could hide it from her,” Earnhardt told Motorsport.com during a press conference unveiling his new MAACO sponsorship at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I certainly could never hide it from Amy. She could see it. If you came home from work and you had a bad day or you were in a bad mood, how many seconds would it last before your wife or your husband says, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Once you walk into the house, it takes no time at all. That’s how it was with Amy. Any time I got hurt, she knew right away. She could look at me and tell right away by the look in my eyes.”

While Earnhardt hasn't enjoyed the dominance Brady has achieved in football--with a resume that includes five Super Bowl Championships, four Super Bowl MVPs and 12 Pro Bowl appearances--both athletes remain the faces of their respective sports. However, while Brady, 39, has been married for eight years and has three children, Earnhardt is a newlywed with another life ahead of him.

Earnhardt says that, while his doctors were great about keeping him honest when it came to head injuries, it was Amy who remained relentless when it came to his health.

“She was great about saying, ‘You have to do the smart thing here. This is nothing to play with. Think about your future.’ When you are concussed, first off, you don’t need to be making those decisions for yourself. Your judgment isn’t always going to be the best.

“So it’s great to have someone like her that’s going to see clearly what needs to happen next, who I need to talk to and who I need to get in front of. She was extremely helpful in that moment.”

Part of his legacy?

Although Earnhardt has been heralded in the past for coming forward with his injuries and encouraging his fellow drivers to do the same, he’s not certain that will be part of his legacy. He understands that, while it was easier for someone of his means to make the decision to step out of the car or even retire, it might not be the case for everyone.

“It was easy for me, because I saved my money. I’m at the end of my career,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t have a whole lot to lose by taking my time. Now, Aric (Almirola, who is sidelined following a broken vertebra in Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway) and guys that are young and still feel like they have 10 years and…Aric is still grinding and clawing. He’s still trying to get a grip on his role in the sport as a driver. And he wants to be in the most comfortable position he can be in — not only financially but just behind the wheel of the car.

“There’s a lot of drivers like that. All these rookies coming in, it’s not as easy a decision for them and I don't know what kind of impact I’ve had on that for those guys. It’s a much, much harder decision if you’re 23-years-old and got a great shot or a great opportunity. There are guys looking over your shoulder ready to go. If you miss some races and somebody comes and gets in your car and runs faster than you, does better than you, that’s what you worry about as a driver. You worry about guys showing you up and taking your seat. That’s the honest end of it from a driver’s perspective. The younger you are the harder it is to do the right thing, take your time and be patient. It’s much, much harder.”

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