DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Wednesday’s Daytona 500 Media Day carried with it a lot of storylines, but perhaps one of the most high-profile headlines was Danica Patrick’s admission that she has had multiple concussions over the course of her time in racing.
Patrick was specifically asked about Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his recent concussion issues, and then if she herself had ever had any.
“I’ve had concussions,” she admitted. “I mean, every time you crash you have a concussion on a varying degree, I’m sure. So when he said something about having 12 concussions I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sure I’ve had 12 concussions.’”
“It is a little bit thought-provoking is what I would say, for sure, because while we’re not football players — where we don’t get the repeated hits like in succession over a short amount of time — but it’s rough in the car and the hits are probably singularly bigger maybe. I don’t actually know. I’d be assuming that. I’m just assuming that going 200 mph or 150 mph has to be a fairly big hit compared to running, but, then again, we have a lot of protective layers, whether it be SAFER barriers, the collapsible items on the car that all are meant to take the inertia, and then all the safety equipment that we have from the helmet and HANS to the belts. It makes you think, for sure.”
Earnhardt missed the final 18 races of last season after sustaining a concussion in a crash at Michigan Int’l Speedway in June, something that Patrick said raised overall awareness because of his high profile in the garage area.
“It makes you pay attention to yourself and I think there’s nothing better than having somebody like Dale Jr. going so far as to get out of the car for as long as he did and saying, ‘Hey, I have a problem,’ because it makes it more available for everyone else.”
“Now, I don’t think anyone else has as much luxury sponsorship-wise as Dale Jr. probably does to be able to just get out of the car like that, but it also is coming from a big-name driver that is setting the standard for well-being and it’s admirable, for sure,” she added. “I think we like to sweep it all under the rug as drivers … like we feel fine and nothing is wrong, but it’s our life. If there was someone that told me or I would hope any other driver if you have another wreck you could have a serious problem, they would be out.”
Patrick also said that if she ended up in a situation herself where she was faced with a concussion or had sustained one, that she would take the same step as Earnhardt did and sit out of the race car.
“I would be out because I love what I do, but I love lots of other things and I also love life and I’m too young to have it be over, so it’s a good lesson for a lot of people and a good education,” Patrick said. “Just like in that movie ‘Concussion,’ which is something that we watched after it happened, maybe there will be some more tests and things run to be able to test better and know more about our concussions and our symptoms and how it happens over time.”
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