Driving a race car is an exceptionally dangerous way to make a living, and no one knows that better than Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Now retired, Earnhardt estimates heâs had 20 to 25 concussions throughout his racing career and hid them from everyone. And in the last few years, heâs been the biggest advocate in NASCAR for education about head injuries and their frequency. Heâs even said heâll donate his brain for concussion research when he dies.
Well, Earnhardt recently found out about an injury heâs guessing he suffered during a NASCAR wreck at some point in his career, but he has no idea when it actually happened.
As he explained Thursday on Twitter, he was having chest pains, and his wife, Amy Earnhardt, pushed him to go see a doctor. Not only did doctors diagnose Earnhardt with costochondritis, but they also informed him he broke his sternum and rib at some point in the past.
Hereâs how the U.S. National Library of Medicine describes costochondritis:
All but your lowest 2 ribs are connected to your breastbone by cartilage. This cartilage can become inflamed and cause pain. This condition is called costochondritis. It is a common cause of chest pain.
Good on Earnhardt for continuing to be open about his health challenges â whatever they may be. But more importantly, how on Earth did he go at least a couple years without knowing he broke two bones in his chest?
The last race Dale Jr. competed in where he was involved a wreck severe enough to keep him from finishing was back in the 2017 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was in July that season.
He ran 54 of 72 races between 2016 and 2017 before retiring from full-time racing, and after competing in the first half of the 2016, he was sidelined for the second half with concussion symptoms. Between his final two seasons, he was involved in nine wrecks that kept him from finishing.
But really, for all Earnhardt knows, he broke his rib and breastbone even before that. According to NASCARâs Racing Reference stats, he did not finish 40 of 631 races because of a crash between 1999 and 2017.
And itâs possible it wasnât related to racing, but given his profession for more than two decades, it seems unlikely that it happened off the race track.