Scott Fowler

Why is Dale Earnhardt Jr. so intent on donating his brain to science when he dies?

NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. waves to fans before the NASCAR Monster Energy All-Star Race on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. waves to fans before the NASCAR Monster Energy All-Star Race on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had multiple concussions during his career and missed the entire second half of the 2016 season because of the repercussions from one of them.

Even before that latest concussion, Earnhardt said on Twitter that he planned to donate his brain to a leading research center so it can be studied and hopefully advance the fight against brain injury, particularly in athletes.

I asked him why he felt led to make that public pronouncement.

“Even though they have learned a lot, there’s just so much they don’t know,” Earnhardt said of doctors who are researching concussions. “Some of the real hard evidence is going to be in the brains of these athletes.

I was an organ donor anyway. And I was thinking if I’m going to be a donor – if somebody needs some of my guts -- why not let them have the whole thing?

Dale Earnhardt Jr., on donating his brain to science.

“Auto racing is different discipline compared to football, and so our head injuries give physicians a different point of view. ... I was an organ donor anyway. And I was thinking if I’m going to be a donor – if somebody needs some of my guts – why not let them have the whole thing?

“If there is a way for doctors to help people not have to deal with the sorts of things I have had to deal with it, then, man, I’m all for that,” Earnhardt continued. “Anything they can do to try to prevent the long-term effects. ... If they can learn some things to give people a better quality of life down the road into their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s then that would be awesome.”

More from Scott Fowler’s one-on-one with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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