After a scary crash in Toronto practice left him with a broken back, Soaring Eagle Casino RCH Suzuki’s Broc Tickle was back on the scene Saturday in New Jersey. We chatted with him to get an update on his condition. We’ll also let this week’s guest editor, Wil Hahn, add his take on what it’s like to recoup from such a devastating injury.

Racer X: What are you doing here? You look good!
Broc Tickle: I’ve just been laying around for the last four weeks. I decided to get out of the house. Went to the doctor’s on Tuesday and had a pretty good checkup. Going to head back to California after this weekend. I’ve been in Michigan the last four weeks and sitting on the couch pretty much staring at the wall. So it was good to get out of the house and come and be around the people I’ve been around all year and all last year. It’s just good to be back and looking forward to recovering and getting back to California and seeing Doctor G and whoever else can help me out.

First of all, how bad was it? Was it super scary?
For sure, it was really scary at one point. Just the fact that I crashed and I knew I did something, broke some of my back. It took forever to get me on the stretcher. It took forever for them to get me an ambulance to go to the hospital. Then when I got to the hospital it was a 40-minute wait to get a room. I remember all this, and I still didn’t have any pain medicine yet and I was freaking out. Then on the ride over I lost feeling and movement in my legs. Got to the hospital, they hooked me up to the machine, I finally got in a room and got feeling movement and back. They did CT scans and they saw something, so they wanted to go back again. For the first CT scan, there were two people and a nurse helping me get up on the table. When they wanted to do the second one, it was just a nurse and a CT guy. The guy must have thought he was Hercules and picked me up and dropped me on the table! I lost feeling again in my right leg and movement. Then it’s pretty much a blur from then until I woke up after surgery. It was tough, but like I said, I’m just glad to be up on my feet walking around. It’s been a good four weeks. I’ve been regrouping. I want to come back and be better than what I was when I got hurt. I’m kind of motivated to prove myself again and be back out there.

Tickle hopes to return for a portion of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships, but is not rushing back.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Tickle hopes to return for a portion of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships, but is not rushing back.  Photo: Simon Cudby

The crash, was it even that crazy?
I got kicked weird. You know how the jumps are there [in Toronto]; they get kind of soft in the bottoms and the top of the jump kind of had just a little hard knuckle on the top of it and I just got kicked weird. Got kind of stuck in a position and I hit it too fast on top of that, so I jumped into the berm instead of landing on the landing. My momentum was going forward and I just went face first into the berm over the bars, and then scorpioned. I knew right away there was something wrong.

I got up and panicked and tried to get on the track, because that’s what we all do. I got up and crawled to the top of the berm and they finally got me on the stretcher and got me going. It was tough that day.

I saw you crash, then after that practice I went down to the pits to talk to someone on your team to see how you were doing, and then I saw you there in the tunnel still on the stretcher! I figured you’d be long gone by then!
Yeah, thanks to [Series Chaplain] Steve Hudson, he was there. Honestly if he wasn’t there … Jess [Broc’s wife] wasn’t there yet and I was freaking out. He was the only guy there from the beginning when I did crash until I went into the operating room. So thanks to him and him being there -- it kind of game me some comfort. That was the worst part was, sitting there in the tunnel, my head was lower than my feet. It was just making all the blood rush to my head so it was making me panic. The guys couldn’t give me anything until I got to the hospital and see what was going on. For me, just focus on getting better and looking forward to it. Even though it’s a setback I feel it’s going to make me stronger in the end.

How gnarly was the surgery? It’s a pretty good amount of hardware and stuff?
Yeah, two rods, six screws. The scar I think is around 10 inches long. I compression fractured my T-7, broke the wing off on my T-6. And then minor collapsed lung and two broken ribs. But up there it was tough because I didn’t hear about that until I got to Michigan. But for the back, I got lucky because the number one spinal surgeon in Canada was on duty and he was the one who operated on me. So I got lucky there. I was there for five days, transferred to U of M [University of Michigan] and was there for another five days and got released. So it was good to get out of there. I was walking around fine by then and getting around the hospital.

And Michigan’s fairly close to Toronto, and that’s where your wife’s family is from.
Yeah, as soon as I left there we went to Jess' parents house and was there for the last four weeks, so it was good to get home and see family and whatnot, but I’m ready to be back part of this. This is my lifestyle. I think it’s just going to help being at home in California, being around Dr. G and the whole team and everybody. Obviously I can’t really do anything so going to the track for me would be something on the side to keep me focused on getting better. I’ve got my trainer, [Gareth] Swanepoel, helping me too. So we’re going to get in the pool. I can get in the pool now so that’s good to know. Going to get [Trey] Canard’s info from Steve Hudson and talk to him a little bit. Carey [Hart] just had spinal fusion eight weeks ago in his lower back, so I’m going to go see his doctor. Just get as many opinions as we can. I think the goal right now is, what I think and most guys think that are around me, is let it heal how it is and get the stuff taken out and let it heal again. That way there’s no problems later down the road. That’s the plan right now.

Tickle is focused on getting better and letting his back heal properly. Photo: Simon Cudby
Tickle is focused on getting better and letting his back heal properly. Photo: Simon Cudby

Take longer that way, but safer in the end.
Yeah. That’s the goal for me right now, get better and focus on that right now. No saying whether I’m going to be able to race outdoors or not, but it’s no rush for me because this is my long run is going to be worth it if I can hold off.

Like I said, you’re moving around all right now, but how are you actually feeling?
I actually felt good today. Obviously I haven’t been on my feet that much in the last four weeks. Even if I was here and I didn’t get hurt at Toronto and I went to Disneyland all day my feet are going to hurt. It’s no different. There’s not much pain honestly at all. I’m off all pain meds and I’ve been off them for the last three weeks, so it’s been good. Now I’m just catching up on my TV shows and whatnot, catching movies I haven’t seen that are old school and stuff like that. So it’s been good. Kind of enjoy life a little bit, take this time to enjoy time with family and get regrouped and be ready whenever I can start riding.

Guest editor Wil Hahn's note:

As a rider it's always tough going from the season grind to strict orders of the riding the couch. As riders we have minimal relax time in our schedules, when that is suddenly that's taken from you, the first day or two is like, "Ok, you needed that break". Then it sets in. You aren't able to ride or train, and that's the toughest part. Now your over active mind won't shut off and your laying in bed wide awake. Too much energy. Soon you find yourself skipping lunch and not realizing it cause you aren't burning the calories. As riders we are programmed to go 100mph everyday. Take that away and you find out we have tempers -- we are short and moody and have too much pinned up energy. I can't wait to be normal and have a long day of riding and my hands be sore! I'm sure Broc is looking forward to it as well. I wish him a speedy and successful recovery!