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NASCAR likely to make baseline concussion test mandatory

Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s concussion at the end of last season influenced NASCAR's decision to mandate concussion tests.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- NASCAR will likely require baseline concussion tests for all drivers in 2014.

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president of racing operations, said officials have also urged drivers to get an ImPACT test before this season.

"We've encouraged them all to get that, with the emphasis that in 2014 that almost likely will be mandated for all of them," O'Donnell said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. "We're in the process of doing that right now. We're educating them on what it is, how it works, and we'll come back with that for the 2014 preseason."

The test is used by many professional sports leagues, including the NFL, to assess concussions and determine when an injured athlete can safely return to play. The ImPACT test has transformed the way concussions are managed by giving a tangible measure of what's going on in the brain. It's a computer-based series of fast-paced quizzes involving words, pictures and colors. Scores reflect how quickly and correctly the questions are answered.

Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon voluntarily took the test and says all drivers should complete one even if it's not mandatory.

"Why not go ahead and get ahead of the game?" Gordon said. "Plus, I would rather have it before the season starts, before the potential of having a head injury, to get a baseline."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed two races last season during the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with a concussion. Earnhardt was checked out last year by Dr. Micky Collins, the clinical and executive director of the Sports Medicine Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Collins is one of the leading experts in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of athletes who have suffered concussions. He helped with developed the ImPACT test with Dr. Mark Lovell.

"The test is really simple and pretty straightforward," Earnhardt said.

Gordon said Earnhardt's injury was the deciding factor in getting tested.

"I didn't even know what an ImPACT test was prior to that," he said.

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