Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports

How Dale Earnhardt Jr. helped Brock Holt overcome concussion, return to lineup

John Tomase
July 16, 2017 - 3:15 pm

With doubts over his ability to return from vertigo eating at him, Brock Holt was put in touch with an unlikely source of inspiration -- race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The scion of one of racing's greatest families, Earnhardt has overcome concussions in his line of work, and it just so happens he and Holt share a doctor in Micky Collins, the Pittsburgh-based specialist who also connected Holt with former big leaguers Brian Roberts and David Ross.

"Micky's worked with all those guys, so I think when I went and saw him, we talked about all my concerns and kind of what I've been going through, physically and emotionally, and he set me in contact with those guys because he felt like those three were probably the most similar to what I was dealing with," Holt said.

The longer Holt couldn't play, the more he wondered if he'd ever feel normal again. He has suffered multiple concussions throughout his career, and he hadn't played since April 20 because of vertigo. The Red Sox activated him and plan to put him in the starting lineup in the nightcap of Sunday's doubleheader against the Yankees.

"Doubts start to creep into your mind," he said. "That first time I tried to rehab, I think I played two week's worth of games and never felt good in any of them. You start thinking. When you're down there trying to compete and play and you're not able to do it, I think there were times when I wondered if I would ever get back to normal or if that was my new normal. But, I would say I had to get talked off the ledge a couple of times from Micky in Pittsburgh and my wife. They set me back on the straightened path, but it was hard, man. Emotionally, physically, something that obviously I would have rather not had to go through. But, like I said, it's going to make me stronger and I'm glad to be back."

Holt had particular praise for Ross, his former teammate, who suffered a serious concussion with the Red Sox, as well as Roberts, the former Orioles second baseman.

"I talked to him a couple of times," Holt said. "I talked to him over the phone a couple of times, and then I saw him in Houston when we went to Houston and talked to him in person. I talked to Brian Roberts with the Orioles who worked with Micky Collins, and I actually had a conversation with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as well who kind of went through similar stuff as me. I think his was a little more intense.

"But it was nice talking to those guys knowing that they got better and that was big for me being able to talk to guys who have been through it. You can talk to your training staff, your teammates, my family even, and you can explain how you feel but no one really knows. It was nice to talk to those guys who have been through it and know exactly what I was talking about."

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