Dale Jr: "I'm Not Ready To Quit"
During a NASCAR.com Press Pass broadcast reporters got to sit down with Dale Earnhardt Jr and Hendrick Motorsports GM Doug Duchart about the state of Dale's concussion treatments, therapy and timeline for returning to the track. Dale was happy to see all of the reporters and excited to see all of his guys at the shop and on track as they prepare his 88 car for Jeff Gordon, who has been Dale's replacement since his injury at Michigan in June.
"I'm super nervous coming back" he said, as he joked about spending too much time around "the kids" and how they bring up his anxiety and stress levels - something his doctors have been using as part of his therapy, called "expose and recover". Dale emphatically stated that his intentions are to "get cleared and get back to racing". He is taking his doctor's visits "one eval at a time", and is visiting with them every 2-4 weeks. Phone calls to his physicians are every other day, which helps him cope and talk about the physical and psychological parts of his recovery. Adding stress, he was told, would slow down the process of recovering, and the point of him seeing the doctors is to "get him right"
When asked about being faced with "if" scenarios from his doctors, Dale had this to say:
"I'm just concerned with getting normal. All the doctor cares about is fixing you. He's not a counselor or psychologist. That conversation (about that what if's) is not going to take place in the middle of treatment"
Dale also noted that he was thankful that there is knowledge and treatment for his symptoms specific to what he is going through, and it's great to have the ability to talk to his doctors if he has new symptoms or questions. They will typically sit him down with 4 or 5 specialists during visits.
Dale was asked if there is a threshold that would need to be reached for him to back out of stressful situations. He said that his doctors have given him a "expose and recover" gameplan. They want him to go out and do normal activities and as well as do things that are out of his comfort zone, go places where he has never been before and "expose" himself to stressful or uncomfortable situations that would make his brain work harder to help the healing process; and then recover from that situation by going back home or somewhere where he can be alone. This strategy is different from when he suffered his first concussion in 2012 and he saw Dr. Jerry Petty. It was more of a rest and relax regime.
The Dale Jr Download, Dale's weekly update podcast, has been a great source for him about getting the word out to his fans about his recovery. Dale said he was worried about people making assumptions, and he wanted a venue for transparency and honesty. Fan support and outreach from fellow team members has given him alot of positive motivation. Dale says that he's been frustrated that the process has been taking so long, but he is diligently been following doctor's orders and that he has every intention of honoring his current contract with Hendrick Motorsports..
There are 6 types of concussions, and according to Dale Jr his type is called "occular", which is why is balance is affected and his inability to stay focused on a fixed object is where his gaze stability issues come in. "It's hard for a driver to say that you have a problem, especially if you are a younger driver or are just starting out in racing" He's talked to alot of drivers and appreciates being able to talk to those who have experienced the same common symptoms he has been going through.
When Dale Jr returns to racing, which will not be his decision, but one made by his doctor, he expressed that he would like to drive on a closed course first, just to get back into a race car and drive before he gets back on a regular track.