Dale Earnhardt Jr. | NASCAR Driver

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | NASCAR Driver

As a NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is familiar with the dangers and risks associated with his sport. In late 2012, he sustained a concussion while on a practice run. Dale reported feeling trapped inside of his head, claustrophobic at times, stunned, nauseous, panicked, and unable to gather his thoughts after this injury. It took Dale four weeks to feel like himself again.

He was feeling 100% going into a big race in October, but unfortunately he was involved in a 25-car pileup and sustained another concussion. After this second injury, Dale began showing new symptoms, including changes in his mood and anxiety levels, anger, aggression, pressure, and more feeling trapped.

Disappointed to be back at square one after back-to-back injuries, Dale first went to see his doctor in Charlotte, N.C. about his concussion symptoms. His doctor referred him to the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, led by Micky Collins, PhD. Dale made the trip to Pittsburgh and underwent testing to evaluate his injury. After reviewing the results, Dale received a treatment plan from Dr. Collins, including specific rehabilitation exercises designed for his recovery. Dale was also able to learn about the connection between his two concussions and the persistence of his symptoms.

“I felt like I was at a concussion mini-camp. I was looking around the room and thinking, I felt so alone before that. I felt like I was this one individual in a city of hundreds of thousands, with this issue. When I walked into UPMC, I was like this is where I need to be. There’s people getting treated, and they’re putting a smile on people’s faces. They’re helping them understand what’s going on.”

After several weeks of hard work and support from Dr. Collins and team, Dale recovered and reported feeling better than ever. “With the care that I got at UPMC and the rehab and the things that they put me through, I was able to return to my old self doing what I love to do.”

He soon returned to the track, in fact, he won the Daytona 500 in February 2014 after completing his treatment at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

“I was very lucky that my injury was something I was able to recover from. And I felt like Pittsburgh really accelerated that, and I feel like they gave me the ability to get better than I would have alone.”


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