NASCAR is to introduce a new process to allow doctors to check drivers for concussion injuries next season, with mandatory pre-season neurocognitive baseline testing as part of its comprehensive concussion prevention and management program being introduced for all competitors in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.

The new process will involve all drivers undergoing a 30-minute computerised ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test before the start of the 2014 season. This will give doctors something to reference and check against in the event that a driver is subsequently involved in a heavy crash during the season, and should make it easier to determine whether or not that driver is suffering from a concussion even if they report no immediate ill effects.

"NASCAR made this decision because we think it is important to drivers' health for doctors to have the best information and tools available in evaluating injuries," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR vice president of racing operations. "ImPACT tests are not new to our sport and have been used for treatment through the years."

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The IZOD IndyCar Series is one such championship that already carries out pre-season baseline testing on all competitors, and will now be a part of NASCAR's comprehensive concussion prevention and management program. There has been a spotlight on the effects of neurological injuries in sport this year, with a particular focus on the harmful effects of repeated concussions in NFL.

"We are extremely confident that our concussion protocol is among the best in sports," O'Donnell said. "We regularly review all of our practices involving safety and health to see if there is anything that we can do better, or should do differently moving forward. Implementing baseline testing is a primary example of our philosophy to protect our competitors the best that we can."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was all in favour of the move. His 2012 Chase campaign was derailed when he crashed in last year's race at Talladega and was forced to miss two play-off races after it was revealed that it was his second accident in six weeks to leave him with concussion-like symptoms, although it was only when Earnhardt came clean despite the effect on his championship that the seriousness of his condition was realised.

"When you're trying to treat a concussion or even trying to diagnose it, it's very difficult, because you can't see it on a CAT scan," Earnhardt explained. "You can't see it by looking at somebody. The only way a concussion really is diagnosed is by what [the driver tells you] and they're not always going to be honest.

"When you get into an accident, you can take this test again and find out exactly what is happening to your brain if things don't feel right," he said. "This test can pinpoint where in the brain you're struggling, what kind of injury you have, what kind of things you can do to rehab and to recover. It helped me a lot.

"Concussions are like snowflakes they are all different in the way you are injured and how your symptoms are different from every person," he continued. "Everybody reacts differently to it. This information that they are getting from a baseline test and then the retest of an individual like myself it helps further down the line treat other individuals.

"I think it's a great move by NASCAR to have another tool in the tool box to sort of help diagnosis, but as equally as important help treat the concussion. It's a great tool not only to help diagnosis but really to understand the type of injury and the style of injury that you have and how to treat that particular injury with the information that you get from the baseline test.

"As much as the baseline test really is just good to do regardless it can really help you in the long run when you are needing that kind of treatment," he added. "It's just valuable information. If you care about your wellbeing and your health and quality of life it's a smart move to embrace

But the move has not been universally welcomes, with reigning champion Brad Keselowski particularly outspoken against the new testing regime.

"I'm trying to be open-minded to the possibility that they can help us, but past experience says no," he insisted on Friday during testing for this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville. "Doctors don't understand our sport, they never have and they never will. Doctors aren't risk takers - we are. That's what makes our sport what it is and when you get doctors involved, you water down our sport.

"I don't like doctors in our sport," he reiterated. "This is not the field for doctors. Let them play in their arena and I'll play in mine," he said, before explaining his major concern with the introduction of the new baseline test. "My biggest question is, 'What's the number?'," he added. "It's no different than the race cars. If you have a test and you come back later and you score five percent worse is that okay? Is it ten? Is it 11? Is it one? There's a tolerance to everything we do in this world.

"There's not a part on our race car that isn't built to a tolerance," he stressed. "There's not a part on the space shuttle that isn't built to a tolerance. The same thing could be said for this particular field. What's good? What's bad? What's the number? That's really what's relevant to the conversation, but if there isn't a number that's good or bad with this style of testing, then it's a waste of time. It's just another subjective field for doctors that don't understand our sport.

Keselowski explained why in his mind NASCAR was fundamentally different from other sports such as NFL or NHL.

"An NFL player doesn't walk on the field and say today might be the day where I die," he pointed out. "He doesn't make a decision when he gets out on the field that could affect the health of others. That's a pretty distinct different. He makes a decision whether or not if he takes another hit that he'll be able to enjoy his livelihood with his kids. We're on a whole other level as race car drivers.

"I don't want to call it a negative, but at this point I haven't seen where that's going to be a positive for this sport," he said. "I've never had a baseline test. I've been dinged, I've hit some walls, but I've never had the baseline test. I'm trying really hard to keep an open mind to it, so I guess we'll see together how it works out."