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Earnhardt visits UPMC concussion expert

| Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, 5:40 p.m.
Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr pauses as he talks about his recent concussions Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. (AP)

Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, met with UPMC experts Tuesday about the concussion that has sidelined him for the past two Sprint Cup races.

Earnhardt's visit, which primarily was with concussion expert Micky Collins of UPMC, was arranged by Dr. Jerry Petty, who accompanied him to Pittsburgh. Petty consults with NASCAR and the Carolina Panthers. Petty chose to keep Earnhardt from racing last week in Charlotte and this week in Kansas after he developed two concussions in a span of six weeks.

“You can't layer concussions,” Earnhardt said last week. “It gets extremely dangerous.”

Petty said Earnhardt might resume racing next week at Martinsville if the driver can go four to five days without experiencing any headaches or concussion-like symptoms.

During Earnhardt's visit, he had lunch at the Steelers' practice complex on the South Side and met coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers' Twitter feed posted a picture of Earnhardt, identifying him as a “surprise lunch guest.”

Collins is the director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program that has diagnosed and evaluated athletes with concussions in virtually all sports. Collins and Dr. Mark Lovell developed the ImPACT baseline testing program that's used by NASCAR and numerous NFL, college and high school teams.

Earlier this year, Earnhardt snapped a 143-race winless streak that dated to 2008. Earnhardt, by the way, is an acknowledged Washington Redskins fan.

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