Oliver Askew has been suffering with a concussion since his Indianapolis 500 crash in August, and has raced four times before getting help and being ruled out of the next IndyCar round.
Askew will be replaced by treble Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves at Arrow McLaren SP for the Indianapolis road course double-header on October 2-3, and in an interview with the Associated Press, the rookie opened up on the concussion struggle he has gone through.
After the Indianapolis 500 – before which he was leading the rookie of the year standings in 12th overall – Askew has finished 14th, 17th, 19th and 15th.
A massive crash for Oliver Askew in the #Indy500.@IMS added SAFER Barriers designed for safety, and we're so glad they exist as he and Conor Daly are OK. Watch the race on @NBC: https://t.co/B6M3MXYpFe pic.twitter.com/2T6m3Y8ZYL
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) August 23, 2020
He sought help after advice from friends and family, and was ruled out of the next race by IndyCar after coming forward with his symptoms.
“This is all I’ve worked for,” Askew told the Associated Press. “I don’t come from money and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car.
“And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?
“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve.
“And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.
“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car.
“But now after after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing.
“I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”
Concussions are a big talking point in American sports partly owing to the National Football League, which was sued by ex-players for concealing the dangers of repeated concussions later in life. The NFL denied wrongdoing but in 2013 it agreed to pay out over $700 million in damages to ex-players, and legal claims have continued ever since.
It is difficult to test and diagnose a concussion unless the athlete admits to symptoms, which makes the governing body’s role in policing players well-being difficult as well, in any sport.
NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr received treatment at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center following concussions in his career, the same place Askew has sought out for help.
“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack,” Earnhardt told AP.
“It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky [Collins, doctor] so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well.
“You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”
Askew is working hard to recover and is expecting to return at the season finale on October 25 at St Pete.