I’m the father of an equestrian jumper, former NASCAR Motorsports professional and an avid Panthers fan. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) has always been a part of life and minor head injuries are a routine occurrence. From riders falling of horses, drivers bumping the wall and their heads racing cars, to football players hard hit; people often lead with their heads when they move about.
As a father of an equestrian rider I know firsthand, the most frequent cause of death and serious injury for mounted and dismounted horse activities is head injury. Head injuries are associated with approximately 60% of all equestrian deaths and 18% of equestrian injuries. One concussion incident took two weeks of a dark room treatment, missed school, no computers and endless crying by the whole family.
Other TBI incidents with friends and Nascar drivers like Ernie Irvin who has been injured twice. The first injury was while racing at the Michigan Speedway on August 20, 1994 going about 180 mph, and his right front tire blew. His second accident occurred 5 years later to the day August 20, 1999. Again at the Michigan Speedway while practicing for the Busch Series race. Ernie had to relearn many things in order to be able to function again with the handicaps. In spite of my injuries, he considers himself fortunate. Other friends like Bobby Allison also recover from his brain injury, but he never raced again and side effects of the crash still follow him today. Driver Jerry Nadeau during practice for a NASCAR Cup race at Richmond International Raceway spun and hit the Turn 1 wall at 135 times the force of gravity. Though Jerry accepted that his physical limitations ended his career at 33, it still frustrates him. Steven Park’s recovery from TBI seemed to come quickly–too quickly, some thought. He was back behind the wheel within weeks, but he was different: He was emotional, his speech was a bit slurred, and while he was still very fast, he crashed a lot and often hard. By the end of 2003, Park was out of Cup racing.
The symptoms Dale Earhart Jr has effects his balance and he is overcome with nausea. Dale Jr. stepped out of the sport and put his health and quality of life as a top priority. He is going to take things slow and strictly follow the advice of his doctors, and try to learn as much as he can to be smarter and wiser before getting back into a car.
Now the NFL wants players like Cam Newton to take care of their own health and report any head trauma. Part of the problem is that a player needs his brain to know whether his brain is working. Even with non-brain injuries, in the heat of competition, a player may not know the extent of injuries.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are for real. Usually, a few stars are seen, a headache happens, and all is well. Sometimes it isn’t so clear. The person may be knocked out for a few seconds, may vomit, and perhaps may have some loss of memory but by the time the doctor visits the bedside, everything is back to normal. Traumatic brain injuries don’t just effect some, they effect more that you may understand. Be smart, Be educated and protect your friends and love ones.