Jeremy Martin exited the series with a burst fracture to his L2 Vertebrae last weekend. Photo by: GEICO / Honda

“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.

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This past Saturday in Muddy Creek, we witnessed the sober reality of how dangerous racing dirt bikes can be. Unless this is your first year watching the sport, you have unfortunately seen or even experienced something similar to what happened to Jeremy Martin. Seeing Martin writhing in the dirt as he reached for his lower back is every motocross/supercross rider’s worst nightmare. This is not to say it is surprising. While we do not commonly speak about the darker side of the sport, paralysis is a real danger for every motorcycle rider and racer. We appear to have a coping mechanism in our psyche that allows us a certain amount of denial. We are aware of the odds but we somehow tell ourselves, “it will never happen to me.”

Throughout my life I have had extensive conversations with family and friends regarding why I continue to pay large sums of money to ride and race motorcycles despite my advanced age and the obvious dangers. I don’t know how to communicate my love for the sport other than, life is better with motorcycles. In life we have responsibilities, stress and burdens that weigh us down. Everyone has different ways to forget life’s stresses, I turn to my dirt bike. This is the only time that I feel totally free! Maybe it’s the danger of what can happen in the back of my head; maybe it’s the thrill of challenging my personal skill level or just the pure adrenaline rush. I cannot pinpoint why I need to ride motorcycles. I have tried other sports with less danger and they do not fill the void. While racing go-karts, mountain biking, UTV’s and training in MMA are fun, they do not hold a candle to the mental relief I get from riding motocross. After a good day of riding motocross, everything in life feels better. I am less annoyed in traffic, my work issues melt away and life’s problems don’t seem as bad.

Not even this would keep Doug Henry off the bike for very long.

The bond we have with motocross is so strong, some riders continue riding after sustaining catastrophic injuries; Ricky James and Doug Henry are two of the biggest names in Adaptive Motocross. My point being is this, the love for the sport runs so deep that even some who have paid the ultimate price continue to find ways to ride and race. Regardless of the dangers, riding and racing motorcycles is not going to go away. I would however like to bring attention to common sense. I am always preaching safety first in motocross/supercross because all the precautions in the world still can’t prevent an accident from happening. The mid-air collision between Jeremy Martin and Justin Cooper is what I would consider a racing incident and an unfortunate part of the sport. I do believe that instead of turning a blind eye to these incidents or creating reactive solutions, we should research all accidents and use past injury related data when considering future safety improvements.

In a perfect world, all the safety equipment manufacturers (and there are quite a few) making money off the sport could contribute money to an independent study. An independent study has the potential to suggest safety factors and determine the exact cause of a specific accident and injury. With the data acquisition available these days it is not out of the realm of possibilities to determine what, when, why and how in every accident. An independent study could produce results available to all safety contributors along with promoters, sanctioning bodies and other entities who could use the information to increase safety. Let’s be real; if our sport can be perceived as proactive instead of reactive when dealing with safety, no matter how dangerous, it would be looked at in a positive light. If we can keep the stars of the sport healthy and racing, promoters will sell more tickets and television ratings will improve. We all know they are about the bottom line and this could benefit their bank accounts too.

In sports as inherently dangerous as SX and MX are, protecting the top assets has to become more of a priority than it currently is. Photo by: Doc Weedon.

I am well aware of the egos and greed in big business. I am also aware of how far-fetched this idea will be viewed by some, but if industry leaders could look at the big picture, they would realize they’re laying a foundation for the sport to grow. If we could take half the innovation used to make motorcycles faster and apply it to rider’s safety, the landscape of the sport would grow, then more people will enjoy the same glorious feeling we do. Despite my injuries, I am thankful that motorcycles have been a large part of my life. I have flirted with bad decisions growing up, but dirt bikes kept me on the straight and narrow. I worry more about what would have happened if I didn’t ride more than what could happen when riding.

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