NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. addresses the media on Friday in Martinsville,… (Steve Helber / Associated…)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver by a mile, admitted he was anxious and frightened when he first began dealing with a concussion following a crash three weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
But the veteran Sprint Cup racer also said he was glad that he took all the precautionary steps that led to his return to the track this weekend in Martinsville, Va.
“Some concussions are really bad, and I don't care how tough you think you are, when your mind is not working the way it is supposed to, it scares the [expletive] out of you,” Earnhardt said. “You are not going to think about race cars. You aren't going to think about trophies. You're not going to think about your job. You're going to be thinking about what do I got to do to get my brain working the way it was before."
Earnhardt was cleared on Tuesday to return to racing by Dr. Jerry Petty, a neurosurgeon and NASCAR consultant.
“I'm glad I did what I did," Earnhardt said. "I'm glad I took the time off and made the choices that I made. I had to do it. I didn't have a choice. I knew something wasn't right."
He said the turning point came after a visit to Dr. Michael Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“They put me on a physical and mental exercise program that I did every day," Earnhardt said. "That really made the biggest difference. It was really crazy because I went to Pittsburgh a mess. I was just mentally a mess. The doctors up there, we talked for the whole day and went through these exercises and did a lot of stuff and in 12 hours I felt really good. I felt completely different. I couldn't believe it.”
Many have lauded Earnhardt for his openness to talk about human frailty in a sport where machismo often reigns.
“I'm definitely going to be honest with myself and honest with the doctors,” he said. “I'm going to do whatever they tell me to do. I want to be able to live a full life and not have any issues down the road."
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