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Dale Earnhardt Jr. to donate brain for concussion research

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Earnhardt is the latest athlete to say he will donate his brain for CTE research.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Joining a chorus of professional athletes who have pledged to donate their brains for concussion research, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is planning to do the same when he dies.

Earnhardt revealed the announcement in a Twitter post after retweeting a news story Saturday night about three Oakland Raiders players who will donate their brains for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy research in honor of former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, who following his July death was found to be suffering from Stage 3 CTE.

Medical research has linked repeated blows to head and concussions -- such as those football players, extreme athletes and race car drivers routinely experience -- to CTE, a degenerative brain disease that can lead to dementia, depression and Alzheimer's disease.

No stranger to head injuries, Earnhardt suffered a concussion in a May 2002 race that he did not reveal until September of that season. And in 2012, NASCAR's most popular driver suffered two concussions within a six-week span in separate crashes at Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Earnhardt self-diagnosed the concussion following the Kansas wreck, but did not seek further medical consultation after being initially checked out and cleared at the track. Brad Keselowski, who was also participating in the test session, said he "could see the marks and could see that (Earnhardt) hit really, really hard and that he probably was not going to be okay."

Earnhardt did go for further evaluation several days after the Talladega accident where he was then diagnosed with a second concussion in six weeks. He subsequently missed two Sprint Cup races recuperating.

Since Earnhardt' disclosure that he's masked concussions on at least two occasions, NASCAR has revised its policy on how drivers are treated when dealing with a head injury.

When a driver is involved in an accident and cannot return their car to the garage they must immediately go to the infield care center, and if there are signs of a head-related injury they will be transported to a hospital. Before returning, a concussed driver must receive clearance by a neurologist. And since 2014, all drivers are required to undergo preseason baseline neurocognitive testing.