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NASCAR announced on Thursday that drivers will be required to undergo baseline concussion testing starting next season.
This season baseline testing was only recommended, but now it will be a requirement. The baseline test will be done before the season starts. Results of the baseline test will be compared to results after a driver has crashed to help diagnose and treat concussions. The baseline test will be done through the ImPACT test, which evaluates an athlete’s verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time, according to the Associated Press.
"NASCAR made this decision because we think it is important to drivers' health for doctors to have the best information and tools available in evaluating injuries," NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said. “Before announcing this rule, we provided drivers concussion and baseline testing education and created opportunities for them to ask any questions they may have to a top neurosurgeon that specializes in traumatic brain injuries. ImPACT tests are not new to our sport and have been used for treatment through the years."
The ImPACT test is mandatory in the Izod Indycar series, but it wasn’t mandatory in NASCAR until now. NASCAR’s policies were criticized last October after Dale Earnhardt, Jr. suffered two concussions in six weeks and sat out two races, according to USA Today. Drivers must see a board-certified neurologist or neurosurgeon for approval to return to the track under NASCAR’s current policy.
NASCAR also announced on Thursday that it is considering eliminating single-car qualifying next season. According to the AP, road-course style qualifying would be used at all tracks except Daytona and Talladega. Daytona and Talladega would have an “open qualifying session” to set the field. If NASCAR does change qualifying next year, then qualifying would be more exciting than it is now.
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