Traumatic brain injuries are getting a lot of attention these days and much of the scrutiny has focused on football. But last week Dale Earnhardt, Jr., bowed out of two upcoming races to take time to recover from a concussion that he received in a 25-car wreck on October 7, 2012. This can only bring more focus on the dangers of brain injuries and sports.
In a big sense, Earnhardt's injury is completely unsurprising-traumatic brain injuries can occur in any setting. Brain injuries in the context of high-speed car crashes are even less remarkable. The response to his concussion does indicate a shift in awareness, however. Rather than continuing on with the scheduled races, Earnhardt held a press conference to discuss the injury and his reasons for taking time to recuperate. It's not entirely clear whether this was his decision or whether NASCAR refused to let him race without a doctor's certification.
This also serves as a public reminder that concussions and traumatic brain injuries are not limited to football. In fact, high school girls' soccer may have the highest rate of concussions. Researchers claim that female high school soccer players suffer .63 concussions for every 1,000 exposures-that is, games or practices. This is .02 higher than college football players.
While traumatic brain injuries are a big enough problem, a more problematic issue lurks in the social and recreational activities that make them so common. Professional athletes aside, do we have a responsibility to do more to protect teenage and child athletes from unknown and potentially devastating consequences of brain injuries?
Source: Forbes, "Dale Earnhardt Shows Concussions Not Just An NFL Problem," Kurt Badenhausen, Oct. 11, 2012