Monday, May 24, 2010

The Psychology of an Injury

I invited my younger brother Trent to share his experience and thoughts on a recent major injury that set him back for a few months.  He has gone through a few major injuries in the past and never fails to get back on the bike and break himself again.  Trent is much like me and loves motocross and all action sports and you can get a taste of his passion and sense of humor (mildly warned) in the following paragraphs:

No matter what sports you may or may not be involved in, I am pretty sure we can all come to one conclusion about all of them: injuries suck.  Unless you’re heavily involved in the slightly less dangerous sports of ping-pong, curling or pool (if you still dare consider those to be real sports), you’re probably a little more susceptible to physical injury.  I would have included golf in that list, but I have actually proven that it is very possible to jack yourself up pretty good while hitting golf balls around, but that’s a story for another day.  Injuries, if serious enough, can hinder your performance for the rest of your life.  Not only from the physical repercussions of the injury, but also from the psychological damage following the injury.  Since I’m not that involved in most conventional sports, I’m going to focus my attention towards motocross.  For any of you that followed this year’s Monster Energy Supercross Series, you can’t deny that injuries have proven to be an expected part of racing.  The best riders like James Stewart, Chad Reed, Josh Grant, Andrew Short, Ryan Villopoto, and Ivan Tedesco all missed multiple races this year due to injuries, ultimately hindering their chances for winning the championship in the Premier Class.
For me, I grew up on two wheels.  Since I can remember I have always loved riding bikes and dirt bikes.  I started riding when I was about nine years old, and I am pretty sure I will do it until the day I die.  I love jumping, trail riding, and racing around for fun with my brothers and friends.  Even though I have never really competed in an actual race, I have sustained enough injuries to make someone think otherwise.  From mountain biking and dirt biking, I have broken my ankle, femur and pelvis, separated my left shoulder, bruised/cracked ribs, sprained both ankles, broken the majority of my toes and fingers, and had a couple of concussions.  (I also broke my wrist when I was younger, but that wasn’t from riding.  That would be Derek’s fault.  But once again, that’s a different story.)  After every injury I’ve had, I am asked over and over again, “Are you going to ride again?”  To me, the decision to keep riding is easily and obviously “yes”, even though other people think I’m a straight-up moron for not even considering the thought of hanging up my boots.  It’s just something that they don’t understand.  Do you stop dating because you get your heart broken a couple of times?  Do you stop eating Taco Bell because you got explosive diarrhea the last time you ate a Cheesy Gordita Crunch?  Of course you don’t.  You go back and try again with a little more caution hoping for better results. 

My most recent injury occurred last Thanksgiving Day (2009) with my brothers.  My two older brothers and I went to Carnegie Hills by Livermore, CA.  We were riding for a while without incident until Derek thought it would be cool to take some pictures of me.  Obviously, anytime someone has a camera out taking pictures of you, you want to look and ride your best.  (You always gotta impress the ladies by putting pictures of you “busting big” up on facebook.)  Well, after Derek got a few good shots, we decided I would do one more pass through a whoop section, despite the incredible arm pump I was trying to ignore.  So on my way through these whoops, my arms locked up and I whiskey throttled my 450 through the whoops and off the following left handed berm.  I flew about thirty feet off my bike and landed right on my side, breaking my femur at the head, cracking my pelvis in four places, and separating my left shoulder.  I was hauled out of there in an ambulance and underwent surgery that evening.  Three 4-inch titanium screws were drilled into my femur to hold it together, while my pelvis was left alone to heal itself.  It took me about five months to recover from this accident.  I spent a week in the hospital, three and a half months on crutches, and a few final weeks enjoying a pimpin’ cane.  So there were five months of me sitting on my butt playing my XBOX 360, watching movies, and being pampered by the many women that felt terrible for me.  (And when I say many women, I mean my grandma and my mom.)  But that gave me a lot of time to think about my accident, and a lot of time for my butt to lose it’s rock hard form and look more like cottage cheese.  (Sorry for the visual.)   

It took a lot of time for my femur and pelvis to mend, but sometimes it takes even more time for your confidence to come back.  My first ride back was definitely a very calm and cautious ride.  I didn’t get right back on the track and start jumping 70-foot doubles or start blazing the whoops right away.  It’s necessary to take it slow to regain confidence, comfort, and strength.  Even though I’m not innocent of doing stupid things while injured, (Derek can probably elaborate more on that if you’d like), it is quite necessary to give your body and mind enough time to heal completely before you start riding like you did before your accident.  Although painful and time consuming, sometimes injuries can be beneficiary towards one’s perspective and desire.  I now feel that I have more discipline with myself while riding, even though I still do have a lot of fun doing it.  I know when my body can’t take anymore, and I am now more familiar with my limits. 

 Pain is a good reality check, and is quite possibly one of life’s greatest teachers.  We can learn from injury, and most times over come it.  Some people sustain permanent and sometimes fatal injuries.  My heart goes out to those that are permanently disabled or killed because of participating in a sport they love.  In the past year motocross has lost two great professional athletes because of crashes: Jeremy Lusk and Andrew McFarlane.  It is an ugly side of most action sports, but it’s a part of life that will happen to each and every one of us in one way or another.  (I hope not to offend anyone by saying that, as it is a very touchy and sensitive subject.)  But what I’m trying to explain is that sometimes those little injuries can help us keep in check with reality.  Injuries are one of the few things that can effectively lower our pride and help us realize that we aren’t Ricky Carmichael or Jeremy McGrath.  The absence of over-confidence ultimately leads to fewer accidents and less injuries.  We shouldn’t get caught up in trying to be the best in whatever sport we participate in, although competing is incredibly fun.  (Unless, of course, you’re a paid professional athlete.  In that case, disregard everything I’ve just said.)  We should just do whatever is necessary to have fun.  Don’t ride over your limits, but push yourself a little further every time to continue to progress and feel those priceless moments of adrenaline rush.  But never let a hard get-off interrupt your true desire to get out there and tear it up.  If you fall down seven times, get up eight.  


  1. I love it! That's great, you should continue to blog. That was funny and nice to hear your actual thoughts on your injury, not the little funny quips you only ever say.

  2. So Trent, what I get out of this is that you need to get back to whacking golf balls into driving nets with a putter. You come off slightly hypocritical by not making a comeback to golfing after that injury.

  3. I've gone miniature golfing plenty of times without incident to know that I've overcome that slight setback in my golfing experiences.