Dale Earnhardt Jr. health update: ‘This is scary for me’

In what has become a weekly Dale Earnhardt Jr. provided a weekly update on his condition Monday via his weekly podcast on Dirty Mo Radio. NASCAR’s most popular driver has missed the last three races suffering from concussion-like symptoms.

Last week he said that he has been doing physical and mental exercises for two-and-a-half hours each day, and Saturday morning said those symptoms, while not really improving, have gotten any worse.

In June of this year, Earnhardt crashed during the race at Michigan then again at Daytona on July 2. Monday he said that doctors said his injury probably happened at Michigan and was no doubt aggravated at Daytona.  He didn’t really feel the effects until after Daytona. He added that he wasn’t sure he really had a concussion.

“I’ve not had a concussion where you didn’t immediately feel effects,” Earnhardt said. “This is scary for me because it’s different.  I’ve never had issues with my balance and eye issues.”

“I’m not a doctor and I have to lean on the professionals to help me learn about what my problem is. We went through every single test. We went through every possible issue. Blood tests, Lyme disease,” he said.  “Basically you go down this elimination list, and knowing my history of concussions, they think it was the Michigan race. I felt good the next week.”

“I didn’t know why I would start getting symptoms for no reason. We started doing a lot of digging and they seem to really feel confident that this occurred in Michigan.”

Earnhardt said he still isn’t sure how long his recovery will take.

“I don’t know what that tells me about how long this will be,” he said. “(Concussions) are all different, with the length of recovery different for each one.”

“You go to bed at night hoping you’ll wake up able to tell a difference. That makes you absolutely crazy when you wake up and nothing is better, nothing is worse,” Earnhardt said. “In the past, you could always feel an improvement. Those are the days that are really frustrating.”

Earnhardt said his doctor is treating him with a technique “exposure and recovery.”

“I didn’t think I had anxiety in my life,” Earnhardt said. “Then you’re out of your environment. When I sit on my couch, I feel really good. When I go someplace unfamiliar, that drives the symptoms pretty heavily. But after an hour in that environment, those symptoms calm back down.”

Several specialists will check out the 41-year-old driver Tuesday.  His status for this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen remains uncertain. Four time Sprint Cup champion and fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon subbed for Earnhardt at Indianapolis and Pocono. Gordon has said he is ready to continue driving Earnhardt’s car if Hendrick Motorsports wants him to while Earnhardt recovers.

As his long-term future, Earnhardt left little doubt about that.

“In my mind, my plan is to race more.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.