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Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has concussion-like symptoms, says no timeline for return

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on a podcast Monday that he is still doing exercises to address vision and balance issues associated with concussion-like symptoms.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on a podcast Monday that he is still doing exercises to address vision and balance issues associated with concussion-like symptoms. AP

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he’s still undergoing treatment for concussion-like symptoms and it’s undetermined when he will return to racing.

"I’ve not had a concussion where you didn’t immediately feel effects. This is scary for me because it’s different,” Earnhardt said on a podcast on Dirty Mo Radio. “I’ve never had issues with my balance and eye issues.

"I don’t know what that tells me about how long this will be. (Concussions) are all different, with the length of recovery different for each one."

Earnhardt said he’ll be checked out by five or so specialists Tuesday. The Sprint Cup Series is at the road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y. this weekend. Sprint Cup has an open date the following weekend.

Former Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon subbed for Earnhardt at Indianapolis and Pocono. Gordon has said he’s prepared to keep driving the No. 88 Chevrolet if Hendrick Motorsports wants him to while Earnhardt recovers.

"You go to bed at night hoping you’ll wake up able to tell a difference. That makes you absolutely crazy when you wake up and nothing is better, nothing is worse,” Earnhardt said. “In the past, you could always feel an improvement. Those are the days that are really frustrating.”

Earnhardt, 41, said he’s working closely with a specialist and they have a great relationship. "He knows me well enough that all I need is a little positive reinforcement."

Part of his medical treatment is placing himself in unfamiliar settings, which tends to raise anxiety, work through that for an hour or so, and then returning to a familiar setting. Earnhardt said his doctor calls this technique "exposure and recovery."

"I didn’t think I had anxiety in my life," Earnhardt said. "Then you’re out of your environment. When I sit on my couch, I feel really good. When I go someplace unfamiliar, that drives the symptoms pretty heavily. But after an hour in that environment, those symptoms calm back down.

"Then get out and recover to some place where you’re feeling great."

Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell

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