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NASCAR to mandate baseline concussion testing starting next year

Oct 24, 2013, 12:26 PM EDT

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This morning, NASCAR announced that starting in 2014, the sanctioning body will mandate pre-season baseline concussion testing for all of its national series drivers.

The testing will be performed through the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test, which focuses on evaluating verbal and visual memory, processing speed, and reaction time.

As this testing will take place before the season starts, doctors will be able to compare the baseline with post-concussion tests as they evaluate injuries and determine the proper time for a driver to return to racing.

“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 Steve O’Donnell said in a statement.

“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. Also, remember that ImPACT tests are not new to our sport and have been used for treatment through the years.”

Indeed, the test is currently being used by many teams in the NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball, as well as by thousands of high schools and colleges.

NASCAR says that it recommended baseline testing for its drivers at the start of the 2013 season with the indication that this particular mandate could take effect as soon as next year. Additionally, the sanctioning body has held a pair of “concussion education sessions” for drivers.

“We are extremely confident that our concussion protocol is among the best in sports,” O’Donnell continued. “We regularly review all of our practices involving safety and health to see if there is anything that we can do better, or should do differently moving forward.

“Implementing baseline testing is a primary example of our philosophy to protect our competitors the best that we can.”