Injury is a part of Racing

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Yep, it is a fact, that if you race bikes long enough then you are going to be injured.  How injured depends on a long list of things.  On the top of that list I would say luck would have to reside. Having good luck when it comes to getting injured is key.  No question I have hurt myself in the sport, but by far, the most hurt I’ve been are situations out of my control, for the most part.

Both Bicycling and Outside have done articles that “feature” me with some relation to being hurt.  The Bicycling article was a photo pointing to places, mainly broken bones I’ve had, then trying to equalize the risk with the rewards, like a resting pulse rate of 35.  The Outside article was just a story about how I stitch myself up sometimes after falling MTB racing.   Both were okay, correct, but didn’t really address why riders get hurt.

I have been hurt a ton, but it comes in streaks.  I broke my collarbone at Superweek, the first year I left the state of Kansas to race, when I was 14.   I drove home, saw an orthopedic doctor and asked him if I could still race Nationals the next week.  He said yes, so we loaded back up and went back to race Nationals.  Man, doctoring has changed a bunch since then.

I have broken both my collarbones a few times.  All those breaks were before clipless pedals.  Since then, I haven’t broken one.  I’ve separated my shoulders, but no broken collarbones.

I think I was hurt a lot just because of the load of racing.  Nearly all the huge injuries I’ve had are in races.   I was doing over 100 races days a year, for a long time, and during that time is when I was hurt the most.  When I switched over to MTB racing in the 90’s, I had a long duration of relatively injury free competition.  Sure, a few big cuts that needed stitching, but no broken bones, etc.

That lasted a long time, until about 5 years ago.  Kind of since I started writing here.  Since then I’ve had 4 major injuries.  And all could have not happened without bad luck.

I don’t learn much from getting hurt racing.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not.  I take it as what it really is, just a part of the sport.  I accept this.  When you start weighing the risks involved in cycling, you don’t want to dwell on them too long or you might just scare yourself too much to enjoy it fully.

Anyway, I have a shoulder issue, that, I hope, isn’t going to turn into a major issue.  I did an MRI and have torn something like 1 cm or my rotator cuff.  On my “good arm”.  The orthopedic guy that Stacie found here at Scripps, is super.  He called me last night at close to 10 o’clock and talked to me for a while about his thoughts.  He is going to look at the MRI scan himself, not just the radiologists’ report and then call me later today.

I have no intention of doing surgery on this shoulder.  I did the other one a few years ago and it is a nightmare.  Plus, it really still doesn’t work that great.   I’m going to try to do rehab and see if I can live with the outcome.  If not, then I’ll address that later.

Here are a couple drawings Stacie made for me yesterday, trying to explain what was the matter.  I liked them, even though they seemed complicated.

My left shoulder has a 3’rd degree separation. That isn’t the problem.

Laying around, broken, in a small hospital in England after crashing into a car at the British Milk Race.

11 thoughts on “Injury is a part of Racing

  1. Mike N.

    Unfortunately death can be a part of racing also. British ultra endurance racer Mike Hall was hit by a car and killed yesterday while competing in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race in Australia. The race has been cancelled. RIP Mike Hall.

  2. Ducky

    Ouch Mike you hit a nerve with a really good question. Steve will define it as he wishes, as will you and I. My take away is it was both. Dog running into the street was straight bad luck. Not wearing a helmet was a personal choice that most likely resulted in worse injury than if he had one on. I have worn a helmet for over 30 years, every time I go for a ride.

  3. Steve Tilford Post author

    Mike – Not out of control, but out of my control. The dog had a mind of its own.

    My fractured skull was most likely a result not wearing a helmet. The TBI was most likely going to happen either way. That is according to a neurologist, who went to Harvard Medical School. But, they could be wrong too.

    I do know that I was very unlucky hitting a dog at over 30 mph and my team mate, who had a helmet on, but didn’t hit his head, was unlucky too. He broke he back ribs and collapsed his lung. Guess he needed a back shield, even though I’m not sure that is available for cycling. Or anything else.

  4. paul boudreaux

    That’s the great thing about MTB’ing and MTB racing vs. the road. You crash, it’s pretty much your own fault. Good to be in charge of your own destiny…


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