Murrieta, CA – FMF KTM Factory rider Charlie Mullins announced his retirement from professional motorcycle racing today after confirmation that his wrist injured in 2014, would never heal in a manner that would safely allow him to compete.
Mullins, a former GNCC and National Enduro Series Champion, has spent the past two years battling back from dual-wrist injuries. Despite six surgeries and relentless hours in the gym, training to the best condition he has been in during his career, the wrist could not be repaired to the level of stability and flexibility needed to race professionally.
An excerpt from Mullins retirement letter stated, “The injuries I sustained in my practice crash in May 2014 were career ending. At the time, I knew my injury was bad, but in retrospect had no idea the severity of my situation. Every time I ride the pain gets more unbearable and I become a little less in control of the bike. I have no grip strength in either hand. I cannot physically bend my wrist back far enough to twist the throttle properly. I cannot hold on to the bike. In fact, I do not even have the tendon responsible for grip strength, in either hand. I am a danger to myself on the track, and I do not feel comfortable racing at the speed it takes to win.”
Mullins injury included a perilunate dislocation and torn ligaments in his right wrist and a scaphoid fracture in his left wrist. He received surgery on both wrists that year and came back at the end of the season. In the final GNCC, he re-injured his left wrist. Not knowing the severity of that injury he competed in the ISDE the following week. He raced the entire week to help Team USA earn 2nd overall that year. When he returned home, the doctor informed him that the screw in the left wrist was broken and damaging the bone further. The doctor performed a bone graft surgery on the left wrist in hopes of saving the scaphoid bone. In the right wrist, Mullins was experiencing popping and grinding in his wrist and it was deemed unstable. At this point Mullins decided to repair the right wrist with a partial fusion at the same time (as the bone graft) in hopes of making it more stable and being able to return to racing quicker. Six months later, the doctor determined the bone graft failed when the bone died in the left wrist and a partial fusion would be necessary, resulting in both hands have partial wrist fusions.
Mullins took the entire 2015 season off to recover from those surgeries. He raced 5 races in the 2016 season with great pain. On his most recent doctor visit they informed him that the bones in the right wrist have shifted and the staple from the partial fusion appears to be coming undone. There are no viable solutions to fix the wrist to a level he would need to compete.
“It is truly devastating news to find out Charlie can no longer race,” stated FMF KTM Factory Team Manager Antti Kallonen. “I was looking forward to seeing Charlie complete a healthy season. However, there is nothing worse than trying to ride through pain and putting yourself or those around you in danger. At the same time, he could cause further damage to his wrists that could have bigger lifelong consequences.”
Mullins stated, “I want you (my fans, family, sponsors) to know I fought to not be the statistic. I thought if I trained harder than anyone else, put in more time on the bike, rode through the pain, maybe it would work out for me. I could be the exception. Man, I wanted that to be true. I held on to that hope for two years. I spent two years, praying and sweating my way through the pain, trying to get back to where I was and it’s taken a toll on me. It wasn’t until last Thursday that my hope was gone. Once the hope is gone, I knew I couldn’t get on the bike safely again. I have family to care for and I cannot risk my life knowing I’m not in control.”
Mullins concluded by thanking his family and sponsors for continued support and remarked, “Feel no pity for me. I had a decorated career. I won races. I battled with the best in the world and I am proud of what I was able to accomplish in my 10 years of professional racing.”
Kallonen added, “Rather than feeling down, I want to look ahead on the new opportunities that Charlie will have as I know whatever the future holds he will be successful. I also want to recognize his racing accomplishments and to thank him for being a great role model for young riders and representing our off-road industry with the highest standard.”
Here's Mullins' entire retirement letter:
To my Fans:
After much time and consideration, I have decided to retire from professional racing. While this may come as a surprise to many, please know I did not make this decision lightly.
The injuries I sustained in my practice crash in May 2014 were career ending. At the time, I knew my injury was bad, but in retrospect had no idea the severity of my situation. It’s been almost 2 years, and both wrists are not right. Every time I ride the pain gets more unbearable and I become a little less in control of the bike. I have no grip strength in either hand. I cannot physically bend my wrist back far enough to twist the throttle properly. I cannot hold on to the bike. In fact, I do not even have the tendon responsible for grip strength, in either hand. I am a danger to myself on the track, and I do not feel comfortable racing at the speed it takes to win. While I still know how to win in my mind, my wrists cannot handle the beating of the rough tracks and long 3-hour races. It’s devastating to know I am in the best shape of my life, what should be the peak of my career, and cannot even finish a GNCC.
After the last GNCC I went to my doctor to inquire about a cortisone shot for my left wrist. I was desperate for anything that would take the edge off of the pain. Since I’m still having considerable pain in both wrists, he decided to x-ray them. We learned that the bones in my right wrist have shifted and the staple from the partial fusion appears to be moving/coming undone. Every bump, crash, and jarring of my wrist is destroying it a little at a time. It’s not going to get better. It’s only going to get worse, and fast at the rate I’m going. I had both wrists x-rayed five weeks ago and in that short amount of time the bones have moved and damaged considerably. I knew in that moment, this was it. I cannot risk damaging my wrists any further. As hard as the decision is, I am confident it’s the right one.
I want you to know I fought to not be the statistic. I thought if I trained harder than anyone else, put in more time on the bike, rode through the pain, maybe it would work out for me. I could be the exception. Man, I wanted that to be true. I held on to that hope for two years. I spent two years, praying and sweating my way through the pain, trying to get back to where I was and it’s taken a toll on me. It wasn’t until last Thursday that my hope was gone. Once the hope is gone, I knew I couldn’t get on the bike safely again. I have family to care for and I cannot risk my life knowing I’m not in control.
Today, I’m not okay. Knowing I will never professionally win a GNCC again breaks my heart to the core. I am mourning the loss of my career and passion as I turn and walk away so abruptly. I am left with a deep sadness that only time will heal. As I close this chapter in my life, I look to God for guidance and acceptance of the plan he has for me.
With that said, feel no pity for me. I had a decorated career. I won races, I battled with the best in the world and I am proud at what I was able to accomplish in my 10 years of professional racing. Throughout these two years of recovery, there have been many blessings that kept me focused and dedicated to my craft. My family has stood by me, picked me up when I was down, and kept me fighting for what I believed in. KTM has stood by me financially, which I will forever be grateful for. I have excellent health insurance, which covered all my six surgeries and didn’t leave me in debt. My wife and I welcomed our second son, Daxton to the family. We have been able to spend lots (and lots) of quality of time together, and I will forever be grateful for those moments.
As I look to the future, I am filled with hope and relief. I feel as if a big rock has been lifted off my shoulders. While I didn’t want to end my racing in this way, I could feel myself starting to resent the bike for the pain it was causing me, physically and mentally. Not being able to physically do what the rest of my body and mind could do, was killing me a little everyday. To race at the level a professional does takes everything you have. Everything you can give mentally, physically, and emotionally; and that takes its toll over the years.
I have so many people to thank I don’t even know where to start, so I will start at the beginning. First off, I would like to thank my Dad and Uncle Ted for believing in me. From day one, they have been there. Whether it was buying my bikes, taking me to the races, or just being there when I needed them the most. There are countless memories of bike prep, traveling, and racing that will be near and dear to my heart forever. My dad supported me in so many ways over the years, which gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams. He has taught me a work ethic that I’m proud of and none of this would have been possible without him.
I want to thank my wife Rachel for being with me throughout 10 years of my professional racing career. If it weren’t for GNCC racing, we would have never met. Through the ups and downs of life and racing, she has been by my side through it all. I can only imagine what a racer’s wife has to go through emotionally. It takes a special person to handle that load, while always putting my needs and our families first. My wife is amazingly talented in so many ways, but has always put her ambitions last so I could fulfill mine. I am so proud of the wife and mother she has become and am grateful for her everyday. I wouldn’t want to have anyone else by my side. She blessed me with my two boys, Cooper and Dax, who gave me the motivation to get up everyday through my injury and put on a smile and work as hard as I could for them.
Thank you to my mom coming to my races and being a wonderful grandma to my children. My brother, Ryan for keeping life fun and carefree. Finally, my father in law John, for teaching me how to handle life’s real problems. I am blessed to have a family that has believed in me and did everything they could to help me fulfill my passion. Lastly, my good friend Mark Duncan for the “life coaching.”
I have to thank KTM for 5 years of support. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to race the best motorcycles in the world. KTM’s dedication to perfection in unparalleled in the industry and I am honored to call them family. I would like to thank Antti Kallonen and all of the KTM staff for seeing my potential and giving me the tools to be a champion. Antti did everything he could for me. Whether it was switching bikes, different suspension, new anything; I got it, no questions asked. I always felt like he gave me everything he could to let me rise to my fullest potential.
I can’t leave out my years at Yamaha, as they were the first people to give me shot. Randy Hawkins took a chance on me during my amateur days of racing by giving me a support ride. He taught me how to race enduros and what it takes to run a race team. He always treated all his riders fairly and I highly respect him and what he has done for the sport.
A big thanks to Scott Plessinger, Scott Summers, Rodney and Lori Smith, Jason Raines, Darrell Raines, Barry Hawk, Dale Stegall , Aldon Baker, Shane Nalley, JR Boyd, Chuck Marchant, Cody Richelderfer,; All of these people have taught me something valuable along the way that has shaped me into the person I am today. I would like to thank my sponsors; Oakley, Thor, Bell, Troy Lee, Scott and FMF that have supported me over the years. Last but not least, thank you to Racer Productions and the Coombs family for creating a racing series where I could make a living racing a dirt bike.
I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I plan to stay in the industry. I have a few things in the works and will see what God brings to the table. Until then, health and wealth.
-- Charlie Mullins