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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Donate Brain for Concussion Research

Mar 18, 2016; Fontana, CA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) during qualifying for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2016

NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced via Twitter on Saturday he will donate his brain for concussion research and indicated he wants to donate his organs, too.

After retweeting a link to a Sports Illustrated article detailing that three former Oakland Raiders players will posthumously donate their brains for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research, Earnhardt tweeted the following:

Earnhardt has a personal connection to the research, as he's suffered several concussions during his career, per Cindy Boren of the Washington Post.

He joins a long list of athletes and former athletes who have committed to donating their brains to science for CTE research, including George Atkinson, George Buehler and Art Thoms of the Raiders, U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Len Oliver and former soccer players Taylor Twellman and Brandi Chastain, to name a few.

One reason the decision of those athletes is so important for research purposes is because so far CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

"This research is in its infancy," Robert Stern, a Boston University School of Medicine professor of neurology and neurosurgery, told Boren. "There are many outstanding questions, but we're now working to answer them and making some progress."

At a time when CTE research continues to show the dangers of head trauma—and after the NFL's senior vice president for health and safety, Jeff Miller, acknowledged a connection between the game of football and CTE—the decision from several athletes to donate their brains to science is an important step for the burgeoning field.

 

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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