Understanding PCS and CTE
PSC (Post-Concussion Syndrome) is a set of conditions that occurs after a concussion and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is the result of multiple concussions and other forms of head injury. Both can last for weeks or months, and in extreme cases, for years as is Jeff's case.
There is no known treatment for either syndrome. There is treatment for the symptoms of the conditions. Some people eventually get better and some do not. The only prevention is to quit having concussions before the more difficult symptoms appear. Once a certain threshold is reached, there's no turning back. There's no surgery and no medication that will make it go away.
I told Jeff that people might have a hard time making the decision to quit racing because many of the symptoms could be written off as old age or other things. He replied, "You need to realize, you need to value, you do your racing for fun, and if you want to end up. . .I mean, I'm nearly a vegetable now. I have a hard time going to the store. To go to Wal-Mart for me is a major task."
Life After Driving A Race Car
For the benefit of others, I asked Jeff if he had made the decision to quit driving, what would he have done instead? He actually tried to crew chief a car for a few races once the more serious symptoms set in, but was unable to continue.
For others who don't reach the severe stages like Jeff, you can continue to be involved in racing by being a car owner, crew chief, car chief, or anything that involves racing and still have fun with it. If you let things go too long, you will have to stay away for good and that's where Jeff is today.
This is typical of a Late...
This is typical of a Late Model colliding with the outside concrete wall. Depending on the angle of the hit, g-forces upwards of 50 g’s can be transmitted to the driver. Up till recently, we only were concerned with the injuries connected with the head being unrestrained. We now know that even with the best safety equipment available, repeated concussion events can accumulate their affect so that the brain and surrounding tissue is less able to offer protection and a permanent condition can result.
The frontal hits can be worse...
The frontal hits can be worse for stock class cars. Although the front ends tend to bend and crush up, we see less effective safety equipment used in this type of racing due in part to the costs. An expensive, top quality surround seat can, and probably does, cost more than the entire car.
This is Jeff in a T-bone crash...
This is Jeff in a T-bone crash that is very similar to one he described to me in the final race of his career. He had all of the best safety equipment money can buy, but by this time, his accumulation of concussions was to the extent that no amount or quality of safety gear would help him. His brain was hitting the inside of his skull with each impact and becoming more and more injured. The only way for him to have prevented his present condition was to have stopped driving a race car.
I hope through these interviews and the presentation of this information, I have educated you to these dangers. This is not meant to say that CTE is a common problem or that everyone who drives will experience the symptoms we mentioned. What this does say is be aware of the possibilities and be on the lookout for the early indicators of concussion problems not only for yourself, but for others around you. It's your job now to educate your doctors to recognize the symptoms of concussion and to help them make appropriate diagnosis and recommendations, including forbidding future driving of race cars.
If you have any questions for Jeff or would like to share a story or just say hi, you can send your message to me and I will forward your thoughts on to Jeff. We were friends before and we will definitely be in touch often. The one thing I came away with that was encouraging was that the more we spoke and interacted, the better he sounded.
The condition does seem to get better with exercise and activity. Recent studies by a group of doctors who specialize in this type of injury has shown a 70-percent success rate for patients who can exercise and elevate their heart rates. Jeff has been going through a routine of walking, swimming and working out. The winter months were the worst because he was not able to get out, but now that summer is here, his symptoms and attitude are improving at a fast rate.
I was so proud of him when he contacted me with the idea of getting this message out to other racers. It's most often the case that people who are in Jeff's condition turn inward and only think about themselves, understandably. But Jeff, through this presentation is reaching out to others so that he might prevent just one person from going through what he has had to endure. And I congratulate him for that. He's truly a good man.
Ten years ago they started bothering me to where I'd have these sleepy days and I'd start calling in sick to work and the doctors weren't able to pinpoint what was wrong with me.
I had another wreck a few weeks later where I T-boned another car going full speed. I remember getting out of the car and the safety crew was talking to me, but I couldn't hear them. After that I was always sick.