Josh Day Talks About Head Trauma In Racing

Former MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 race winner opens neurocognitive-baseline-testing conversation in roadracing

Josh Day in the MotoAmerica pit area
FORWARD THINKING: Josh Day is stepping away from professional racing due to a head injury suffered at Road America but hopes to still be a part of, and give back to, the sport.Brian J. Nelson

MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 race winner Josh Day announced this past January that he'd be stepping away from racing due to a head injury suffered last season. The highside crash which caused the injury was the third accident Day experienced in three race weekends, the first coming in the season opener at Circuit of The Americas and the next a week later at Road Atlanta.

Now, Day is taking what he’s learned from the experience and campaigning for neurocognitive baseline testing and a formal concussion protocol in national roadracing. Day believes the concussion he suffered at CoTA was exacerbated by the fall at Road Atlanta and that the third, even more severe, incident could have been prevented if testing had been in place that might have declared him unfit to ride.

Josh Day MotoAmerica race action
Josh Day suffered his first big crash of the 2016 season at Circuit of The Americas. The next would come at Road Atlanta, just one week later.Brian J. Nelson

Neurocognitive testing protocol is already in use in stick-and-ball sports and, as of 2017, in American Flat Track. Implementation of these tests is a result of the greater importance now placed on understanding and preventing head injuries, as well as the knowledge gleaned from the study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease found in individuals with a history of repetitive head trauma.

There are different types of tests. The NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and American Flat Track, however, all rely on computer-based ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), which measures attention span, working memory, sustained and selec­tive attention time, nonverbal problem solving, and reaction time. As part of the program, athletes are required to submit to a preseason baseline test. Those scores are then compared to those which the athlete receives in identically formatted post-injury tests.

While many variables are at play, current accepted belief is that a dip in post-injury test scores is an indication of the effects of an injury on brain function. Until the scores return to normal, the subject is considered to be suffering from the lingering effects of a concussion.

head trauma by the numbers banner
Head Trauma By The Numbers.Cycle World

While much remains to be learned about brain trauma and, more specifically, CTE (the disease can only be diagnosed postmortem, and there is no cure), mandatory baseline/post-injury testing could stop racers from returning to competition prior to when they are cleared fit to do so, thereby possibly reducing repetitive injuries.

Day, meanwhile, continues to advocate for neurocognitive baseline testing and a formal concussion protocol in Moto­America. He has been in conversations with series officials and says that those discussions were “encouraging.”