Photos by: Doc Weedon

“Cooksey’s Hard Truth” presented by Scott Sports is a weekly editorial written by Chris Cooksey. Chris will be diving in and out of controversial subjects and bringing you his hard truth about the racing and the riders from around the world of Supercross and Motocross.

Injuries are an unfortunate reality in Supercross and Motocross. It is a fact of life that as we get older, our bodies become more fragile and heal at a slower rate. Watching Jake Weimer snap his arm this weekend was painful, and it got me thinking about a rider’s prime and when a rider should retire. In all professional sports, we see athletes hang on past their prime. The self-belief required to develop into a professional athlete is the same self-belief that becomes detrimental to the athlete’s health, causing them to stay past their prime.

Jake Weimer leaving the Alpinestars Medic rig in San Diego with a soft cast on his arm.

Critics have been suggesting Chad Reed should retire for almost a decade, but for the better part of the decade, he has forced them to eat their words. This year is proving different. Reed entered the season on a leg that is clearly not healed from an offseason injury. A younger Reed would be close to 100% healed, but now in his mid-thirties, his body is not bouncing back like it used too. Reed chose to race his way into shape, but instead of becoming fit, it appears he has slowed the healing of his leg. It’s hard to watch the former Supercross Champion qualify out of the LCQ and barley crack the top 15 week in and week out. Reed has earned the right to determine when he should retire. However, Supercross is unlike any other sport and hanging on too long could cost him his health and possibly his life. Is battling to get inside the top ten worth the risks? Is he making money? Supercross isn’t like the major stick-and-ball sports where giant contracts are guaranteed.

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There is a thin line between Justin Brayton and Jake Weimer in terms of where they are in their respective careers. More than likely these riders will not experience another opportunity in their lifetime to be celebrated by thousands of fans packed into football and baseball stadiums. Are the accolades worth risking their future health? Every rider will be forced to make this decision for themselves, but sometimes the decision appears clear to everyone but the rider. Supercross riders are very similar to UFC fighters in their mentality. Both take a team approach to prepare, but once the cage door locks or the gate drops, the fighter and the rider are on their own. Both athletes risk life and limb in their pursuit of money, glory and championships.

Justin Brayton is having the best year of his career and he will be 34 years-old next month.

If Chad Reed, Jake Weimer, Justin Brayton or any other Supercross rider asked my advice about when to move on (more than likely they will not), here is what I would tell them. I would ask them to look deep inside themselves and determine what motivates them. If the answer is anything other than a complete love of the sport and the challenges encountered every season that push them to do better, I would question whether they should continue to take on the tremendous risks Supercross presents. When a rider is racing for money, to please others, or because they don’t have another job skill, things usually end badly. These incredibly mentally strong athletes need to be truthful with their personal motivations, because hanging on a couple extra years could be detrimental to their quality of life after racing. Bottom line, I hope they keep racing as long as they have a passion and love for what they are doing. Unfortunately one of the three guys I spoke of appears to have lost the fire and is simply going through the motions. You decide which one!